December 12, 2018

Vice and Virtue in the New Cheney Biopic

“The internet got its first look at the trailer for “Vice,” a new biographical drama about former Vice President Dick Cheney, this week. Most viewers expressed shock and awe at the physical transformation of the normally lithe British actor Christian Bale, who plays the stout Mr. Cheney at various stages of life. And Mr. Bale’s performance looks great. Left unanswered: Why make this movie?

George W. Bush left the White House almost 10 years ago. In that time we’ve had quite a ride—bank bailouts, tea parties, race riots, the IRS scandal and several Supreme Court nominations. Then there’s Donald Trump. Yet Hollywood still hasn’t gotten over the Bush administration.

It’s an ugly obsession. From Oliver Stone’s dreadful “W.” (2008) to Will Ferrell’s unfunny TV special “You’re Welcome America” (2009), the offerings have tended to be bad—and worse, predictable. When it comes to politics, Hollywood never seems to want to work that hard. At least half the country has no reason even to tune in.

Mr. Cheney served for much of the early 2000s as blue America’s chief bugbear. Sometimes Republican politicians’ stock with Democrats rises after retirement, as Mr. Bush’s has. But everybody still hates Mr. Cheney. “NYT columnist Maureen Dowd explains why Donald Trump isn’t as bad as Dick Cheney,” read a recent headline from Australia.

The former vice president is now 77. Unlike Al Gore and Joe Biden, he’s been mostly invisible since leaving office. He’s not bothering anybody, so what gives? In 2012 Mr. Cheney got a heart transplant, and his surgeon predicted he’d live another 10 years. Maybe the makers of “Vice” wanted to let him know they hate his guts while he’s still around to hear it.”

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