Let's start this with a huge conflict of interest alert: This film is lousy with The Stranger. The Stranger's lousy offices make a cameo appearance, Stranger theater editor Brendan Kiley fills the screen for a second, and I think my enormous head might loom in the background of a scene, too. These appearances make sense: Grassroots is based on Phil Campbell's memoir Zioncheck for President, which begins with Campbell getting fired from The Stranger news team. ("You can't get any lower" than being fired from The Stranger, Campbell—played by an unremarkable Jason Biggs—moans in an early scene.) Campbell then becomes the manager of former Stranger writer Grant Cogswell's doomed-but-spunky campaign for Seattle City Council.
The good news is that Grassroots was obviously filmed on location. Seattle, and not some shitty generic Vancouver street corner, is everywhere in this movie. And though there are several scenes where characters turn a corner from the Pike/Pine corridor and find themselves in Pioneer Square, Grassroots feels very Seattley. It's not particularly well shot, but it's home.
The bad news is everything else. Grassroots starts to fall apart the second Joel David Moore is introduced as Cogswell. In Zioncheck, Cogswell is a perpetual motion machine powered by an interesting mix of idealism, rage, and self-involvement. Moore's Cogswell carries none of the charisma and is weighted down with all of the flaws. And the plot isn't political enough. Every so often, a character will meaningfully intone, "That's politics" or "You know what they say about bedfellows and politics" so you remember what the movie is supposed to be about, but instead, it's a coming-of-age tale that wastes way too much time on a undeveloped side story about Campbell's crumbling relationship.
But Grassroots is inoffensive enough that you can distract yourself with a game of spot-the-Seattle-landmark until the final scene. It's one of the worst movie conclusions in recent memory, a nightmare of pacing and performance that hinges on the director's apparently fervent belief that a man in a polar-bear suit is the funniest fucking thing in the world. All the wobbly plates crash to the floor, the house lights come up, and you can only look around at the amateur production that just happened in front of you with a growing sensation of pity.