Movie Review: The Second Civil War (1997)

The title and storyline of this film could have fit a drama very well, but instead, the filmmakers and their production channel, HBO, decided to turn it into a comedy. This is often very difficult, but director Joe Dante nailed it, to give us The Second Civil War, a political comedy in the same light as Dr Strangelove: Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb.

While the latter film mentioned dealt with the possibility of a nuclear war outbreak in the 1960’s, this film tackles immigration issues in the 1990’s, which have a shocking relevancy to the issues the United States is facing this very day. My jaw dropped several times throughout the course of this movie, because I could not believe in was made thirteen years ago; it seems like it was made yesterday.

Beau Bridges plays the governor of Idaho, who has recently closed the borders to all immigrants and non-residents of the state. This causes a huge backlash among the rest of the country, and even more so when a good-will agency from the state, that left weeks earlier, was on their way back with a plane full of Pakistani children who were made refugees because of a war. Under the new laws they were not allowed in.

So then the government gets involved, under the direction of the president, played by Phil Hartman, his lobbyist James Coburn, and his chief of staff, played by the wonderful and ageless Kevin McCarthy (who was 83 during filming).

Bridges must then tackle the hysteria in his own state, all while having an affair with Elizabeth Pena, of Mexican descent, who feels upset because he is trying to keep her people out. All throughout the movie Bridges talks about how the immigrants are ruining their way of life, and when asked what he wants for breakfast, he responds, “The usual, fajitas.” By the end of the movie he chooses to name his son Juan Pablo, further contradicting himself.

Over all, this was such a good movie. I sat down to watch it late at night, thinking I would watch like a half hour and finish the rest the next day, but I ended up sitting through the whole thing, and it was very enjoyable.

It includes an endless amount of humor and stupidity within the government, and the insanity between the generals when it comes time for combat on the onset of a second Civil War.

The cast is also loaded with stars who were great in their respective r0les. In addition to mentioned above, it includes Denis Leary, James Earl Jones, Ron Perlman, Joanna Cassidy, and Kevin Dunn.

I will rate this movie with an 8 out of 10, because of how well it coincides with the immigration issues this country is facing. Furthermore, I have never recommended a comedy to more people than I have with this film. I urge everyone to go see this film. It is out on DVD through HBO and is available on Netflix.

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