'America's Heart & Soul' a cinematic sugar rush

If the prospect of distributing Michael Moore's rabble-rousing documentary "Fahrenheit 9/11" gave Disney indigestion, its feel-good documentary "America's Heart & Soul" is the Mouse House's Pepto-Bismol.

But while benign, the documentary can evoke a bit of queasiness with its one-dimensional, flag-waving patriotism.

In the film, director Louis Schwartzberg travels across the U.S., highlighting the lives of common folk, including a banjo-playing farmer and an inspiring African-American woman who throws her pain and hope into gospel music. A new song by John Mellencamp opens the film, playing over down-home images of coal miners, bridges and sunsets.

In fact, most of "America's Heart & Soul" comes across as so sunny, so gosh-darn hopeful that you'd never guess we've been a divided nation at war for the past three years. That the documentary makes no mention of this isn't a sin, but Schwartzberg's work could use a bit of moral complexity, if for nothing else than dramatic tension.

Schwartzberg does find some extraordinary figures for his film--artists who defy gravity and dance along the cliff walls, rising rock 'n' rollers Waltham and a cowboy named Roudy. When Schwartzberg exposes us to their stories, we want to know more. But given the film's format, we only get a glimpse of people, almost any of whom deserve a movie inspired by their lives.

As it plays now, "America's Heart & Soul" seems too much like ain't-America-great propaganda. Instead of exploring America's elusive character, rich diversity and philosophical contradictions, we get a travel brochure: pretty, appealing but ultimately lightweight.

"America's Heart & Soul" ((star)(star)) opens Friday. No MPAA rating (contains little offensive material of any kind). Running time: 84 minutes.