This middling made-for-HBO movie has an intriguing premise, but unfortunately can't manage to strike a successful balance between its comedic and dramatic elements.
In the near future, a heavy influx of immigrants causes Idaho Governor Jim Farley (Beau Bridges) to close the state to foreigners. At the same time, orphaned Pakistani children are being brought to Idaho by a charity group who insist that they must enter the state. The imminent conflict is watched
over by the President (Phil Hartman) as well as the cameras of NewsNet, a CNN-like channel. While Farley's political decision is wreaking havoc, he becomes more concerned about his failing relationship with his mistress, NewsNet reporter Christina Fernandez (Elizabeth Pena), who is revealed to be
pregnant with his child.
At the White House, lobbyist Jack Buchan (James Coburn) wheedles the President into setting a deadline for Farley to end his stand. American troops and Idaho militia groups gather on both sides of the border to prepare for battle. At the same time, minority riots begin occurring nationwide.
National Guardsmen from surrounding states join Farley's army and the Pakistani children are turned away. With tensions at a boil, a misunderstanding about a pending announcement from Farley leads Buchan to advise the President to take action; the fighting begins. Later, Farley reveals that he has
decided to step down from office to be with Fernandez, ending the conflict only after many lives were lost.
THE SECOND CIVIL WAR falters in its effort to be both a smart farce and a "message drama." Touching, dramatic voice-over narration by James Earl Jones (who plays a veteran reporter) is followed by blunt dialogue from Beau Bridges's character that spoils the effect. Scripter Martyn Burke can't seem
to decide if he wants to make the viewer laugh or cry, but, on the plus side, he does keep the proceedings lively.
When the hokey laughs diminish, this film winds up being a cautionary tale about how media-generated images runs the US, from the NewsNet chief (Dan Hedaya) trying to "arrange" news events to the President's decisions, which are based not only on what he thinks Eisenhower or Teddy Roosevelt might
have done, but on when the latest episode of "All My Children" is airing. While Bridges acquits himself nicely in the lead role (so nicely that he was awarded an Emmy for Best Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or Special), the supporting cast really shines: Denis Leary provides the biggest laughs
as a renegade field producer while Jones, Ron Perlman, and Robert Picardo have smaller parts that prove the film might have even worked as a straight drama. There are also cameos by Bridges' son, Jordan, and Roger Corman.
On the visual level, cinematographer Mac Ahlberg (RE-ANIMATOR, THE BRADY BUNCH MOVIE) complements Joe Dante's direction with an impressively seamless blend of film and video images. (Violence, profanity.)
Cast & Details See all »
- Released: 1997
- Rating: R
- Review: This middling made-for-HBO movie has an intriguing premise, but unfortunately can't manage to strike a successful balance between its comedic and dramatic elements. In the near future, a heavy influx of immigrants causes Idaho Governor Jim Farley (Beau Br… (more)