'Arnold' pumps up drama, runs away from the truth

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Do you know how Arnold Schwarzenegger felt the morning after he announced his candidacy for governor of California in 2003 and network talk show hosts questioned his qualifications on-air?

He felt the same kind of deep hurt that he experienced as a little boy in Austria when his older brother punched him in the nose.

Poor Arnold. Poor, poor, poor, poor, poor Arnold.

See Arnold Run, a made-for-TV movie premiering tomorrow night on the A&E; cable channel, is shot through with that kind of made-up, Hollywood, psycho-pseudo-neo-babble hokum - until the film adds up to one, big, fat, shining, smiley-face whitewash of the man. This is not just a silly made-for-TV movie; it's a dangerous one that trivializes politics, minimizes Schwarzenegger's acknowledged acts of sexual harassment and makes a villain out of the mainstream press for trying to bring factual information to voters before they went to the polls in California's infamous recall election.

Normally, one might be willing to judge such a film mostly as entertainment, giving it some leeway when it came to the facts. But A&E; and the producers are promoting it as the truth.

"I would call it a nonfiction movie in that it is based on true events and real people," Matt Dorff, writer and executive producer, says in press materials from A&E.; And who better to write and produce a nonfiction movie about the making of a governor than the screenwriter of Growing Up Brady - a 2000 NBC movie about the making of the 1970s TV series The Brady Bunch - Dorff's other big credit.

The premise on which Dorff seems to have based the film is that Schwarzenegger, at age 56, ran for governor with the same mindset and determination that he used 30 years earlier to win the Mr. Olympia bodybuilding title after emigrating from Austria to the United States. Dorff is so wedded to this alleged insight that the film constantly cuts back and forth from Schwarzenegger the pumped-up bodybuilder training for Mr. Olympia in 1974 to Schwarzenegger running for governor in 2003.

As Dorff puts it: "Instead of living in an apartment in Santa Monica, he lives in a mansion in Brentwood. But inside the chest of the 56-year-old Arnold beats the heart of that 26-year-old who is colorful, outrageous, wild and always focused on achieving his next goal."

The film completely ignores the question of whether the office of governor might involve skills and responsibilities larger than those involved in being Mr. Olympia. Think of it this way: Whereas a decision to develop one's pectoral muscles at the expense of one's biceps affects only the bodybuilder making the choice, a governor's decision to cut aid to higher education severely limits the options and alters the lives of tens of thousands of young people.

But in Hollywood, bodybuilding, the Bradys and being governor are all the same. (Well, maybe being Brady is a little better thanks to all those DVD sales these days.)

Jurgen Prochnow, a normally solid actor, hambones his way through the role, waving an ever-present cigar and chomping the Ah-nold accent like Sgt. Schultz in the Hogan's Heroes TV show. Mariel Hemingway, as Maria Shriver, screws her face into a strange look of furrowed-brow ferocity and never lets it go. Hemingway's Shriver is not so much a believable character as she is a prop used to relentlessly attack the press for reporting unpleasant truths about Schwarzenegger - such as him groping and fondling women against their will on the sets of several of his films, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Anger against the press for trying to bring the film's hero down is ramped up by Shriver tirades about how the press acts only in partisan self-interest rather than the public good. She refers to the Los Angeles Times series as "gutter journalism" and "puke politics."

"Oh, they're neutral," she says sarcastically. "They're serving the public good - pure objective journalism. ... It's all about the smear and the slur. They stick a knife in your back and then run down their little rat holes like the cowards they are."

Poor Arnold. Poor, poor, poor, poor, poor Arnold.

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