STUDIO: Tartan Video
MSRP: $9.99
• Theatrical Trailer
• Bonus Interview Footage
• Deleted Scenes

Disclaimer: This is a Blue State review.

The Pitch

“Got a good Karl Rove story? I mean, one we can print?”

The Humans

James Moore, Wayne Slater, John Weaver, Max Cleland, Joseph Wilson, many others plus archival footage

"Stupid fat Hobbitses!"

The Nutshell

I hate to give a political consultant free publicity. Whether Karl Rove deserves full credit for it or not, he’s become the poster boy for an age in American politics where discourse is ignored and the Constitution is expendable, and I suspect he’s proud of it. Consider "attack ads" that denigrate the opposition without saying anything about the candidate. Consider the practice of "staying on message", wherein a party agenda is forced into all public-speaking opportunities until it becomes a ‘legitimized’ issue. And finally, consider "whisper campaigns", in which anonymous, unprovable accusations bait opponents into wasting time and resources clearing their names.

Bush’s Brain interviews many political figures, both Republican and Democrat, who have crossed paths with Rove. The man himself was unavailable for comment.

Rove has been keeping a low profile these days, ever since ‘Scooter’ Libby resigned last year amid the ongoing Valerie Plame scandal. I’d like to think that means his influence is waning, but frankly this is a guy I’d rather have stay square in the spotlight, where we can keep an eye on him.

"Bo Chuda!"

The Lowdown

This film was made during a period when Rove was still very much visible, often hovering just over Dubya’s right shoulder. It’s not so much an adaptation of Moore & Slater’s book (Bush’s Brain: How Karl Rove Made George W. Bush Presidential) as an addendum: a good deal of time is spent responding to an email Rove sent the book’s authors, contesting various statements.

Oddly, the infamous 2000 (s)election is only briefly touched upon; the vast majority of interviews deal with the East Texas political machinations where Rove made his name. Sample eyecatcher: Young Rove once advertised an opposition candidate’s rally… with fake promises of free beer. What a bastard.

Here’s the rub: Bush’s Brain fails to provide any meaningful insight into Karl Rove’s character, or any speculation on his ultimate motives. Directors Joseph Mealey and Michael Shoob have a lot of material on Rove, some of it quite damaging, but they don’t seem to have a thesis in place. The chronology is jumbled; much of the political intrigue is hard to follow without a scorecard. As I indicated above, the Bush vs. Kerry vs. Supreme Court boondoggle is completely overlooked. The last half-hour digresses into the touching but irrelevant tale of an early Gulf War II casualty and his surviving family.

In short, the film’s inability to focus on its target illustrates exactly what’s wrong with the Democratic Party today.

It’s who you know.

The Package

There are three significant extras, all of them compiling additional interview footage: The Republicans Speak, Old Friends, and the easy-to-find easter egg Impressions of George W. Bush and Karl Rove would all have served better as part of the main feature than some of the material that was included. I have no idea why they weren’t.

The real power behind the Oval Office is revealed

P.S. for music fans: If you’re into Michelle Shocked or David Friedman, note that the film is primarily scored to their music and that they both contributed an exclusive original song.

4.5 out of 10