2007 SXSW SPOTLIGHT PREMIERES DOCUMENTARY FEATURE! To reiterate something I said two years ago in my review of “Fahrenheit 9/11:” documentaries aren’t in the business of neutrality. The very reason they exist is to put forth an agenda and present information supporting it. Just about any doc you’ve ever seen adheres to this rule, it’s just that some (“Hoop Dreams”) are more nuanced than others (“Michael Moore Hates America”).
Add Dan Cox’s “Running With Arnold” to the “others” category. Chronicling the career of Arnold Schwarzenegger from his early days as a bodybuilder in Austria to his current job as governor of California, the film also examines the recall of Gray Davis that led to Schwarzenegger’s election and takes a closer look at the governor’s ties to special interests and his disconcertingly misogynistic past.
Narrated by Alec Baldwin (who, it should be noted, ended up asking that his voice not be used), “Running With Arnold” works best when it exposes Schwarzenegger’s connections to the likes of Ken Lay and the machinations behind the ouster of Davis, itself a blatant power grab designed to possibly swing California over to the red column in the next Presidential election (which is almost too laughable to mention). The section on how California’s recall process came about is also very enlightening, and it never hurts to be reminded of how instrumental California Congressman Darrell Issa was to the recall, using his personal fortune to obtain the necessary signatures.
Presented at face value, the assertions that Schwarzenegger is merely a Bush-like puppet for the energy industry and the allegations about his sexual misconduct are damning enough without Cox’s frequent and exacerbating use of scenes from Schwarzenegger’s old movies or Nazi footage. Yes, he brought it on himself by constantly using “Terminator” dialogue during his campaign, and yes, he has repeatedly voiced support for ex-Nazi and ex-Austrian President Kurt Waldheim, but are the multiple shots of Nuremberg rallies really necessary to get the point across?
Schwarzenegger is enough of a mannequin – he even used Bush’s strategy of “town hall meetings” with hand-picked attendees and pre-screened questions – and his hypocrisy in taking more money from lobbyists than Davis ever did and making deals with companies having direct interest in pending legislation is damning enough without goofy parody.