“War, Inc.” – Susan Granger reviews

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A savage, tediously exaggerated “Saturday Night Live” lampoon that misfires.

Actor/writer/producer John Cusack is an outspoken liberal and vehemently opposed to the war in Iraq. Yet his political views skew his common sense in this mind-bogglingly awful satire set in a Middle Eastern country that’s been invaded and occupied by a Halliburton-like corporation called Tamerlane.

Turaqistan – the mythical site of “the first war ever to be 100% outsourced to a private enterprise” – is now run by a former U.S. vice-president (Dan Aykroyd) whose resemblance to Dick Cheney is not coincidental.

In the midst of a militarized trade show, a troubled, Tabasco-swilling mercenary, Brand Hauser (Cusack), is hired to assassinate a troublesome oil entrepreneur, Omar Sharif (played by the actor Omar Sharif). Hauser’s cover is working as producer for an Americanized Central Asian pop star, Yonica Babyeah (Hilary Duff), whose resemblance to Britney Spears is also not coincidental. And poking her nose into everybody’s business is a crusading American reporter, Natalie Hegalhuzen (Marisa Tomei).

As a writer, Cusack and his “Grosse Pointe Blank” cohorts, along with director Joshua Seftel, don’t know the meaning of subtlety when it comes to profiteering – like having an intelligence agency hidden inside a Popeye’s Chicken, as cheery amputees dance around, assisted by Tamerlane technology, and their take on “embedded” journalists’ resembles an amusement park “battle zone” thrill ride.

Unlike effective political satires (i.e. “Wag the Dog,” “Primary Colors,” “Bulworth”), this has little going for it but snickering – and celebrity spotting. Cusack’s sister Joan pops up as Marsha Dillon, his hysterical undercover secretary, and Ben Kingsley channels “Dr. Strangelove” as Walken, Hauser’s spymaster who winds up as a quadriplegic.

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “War Inc.” is an over-the-top 2. It’s a savage, tediously exaggerated “Saturday Night Live” lampoon that misfires.

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.