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Why 'Fahrenheit' Is Red Hot

Michael Moore's scathing documentary, "Fahrenheit 9/11," which criticizes President Bush's handling of Sept. 11 and the war in Iraq, was No.1 at the weekend box office. The film earned nearly $22 million in just three days and is the first documentary ever to debut in the top spot.

The Early Show political analyst Craig Crawford and entertainment contributor Jess Cagle offer their take on why the film had such a strong debut.

"I think the headlines helped," Cagle tells co-anchor Hannah Storm. "I think Michael Moore and Harvey Weinstein, the producer, are the great showmen of our era. Also, if you tell people they can't see something, as happened with 'The Passion Of The Christ,' as happened with '9/11,' that makes people want to see it more. That's really what happened."

People from all walks of political life are flocking to see the movie, though Crawford notes fewer Republicans admit going to see it. He says, "I did talk to someone who works for the Bush administration yesterday who had seen the movie. Though he quarreled with some of the facts in the movie and how they're presented, he admitted he thought it was hysterical. I think the humor that Michael Moore uses in the movie is what makes it so much more effective."

And humor is, according to some, the best way to drive home a point. Moore told Storm on Friday he's looking to get people to the polls and his aim is to unseat President Bush, which is why Crawford points out the film is a factor in the political campaign.

He explains, "Michael Moore reported that independent voters -they interviewed before and after - had changed their minds or made up their minds to vote against President Bush. This is a political campaign, this movie. And that's what is so unique about it. I'm sure for Hollywood as well, that he's just so explicit about that."

Crawford points out the film also gives rise to a debate that Americans never had about the lead-up to the war and the decision to go to war. It all happened so quickly, that there wasn't time for real debate.

He says, "Congress rushed through this decision to authorize the president to go to war. The president did not share a lot of plans they had for what would happen after the war. The administration changed its reasoning for going to war several times, from, you know, they were seeking weapons of mass destruction and then in the end game, it was all about creating democracy in Iraq, which is something they never talked about before the war. So I think what's happening is Michael Moore's version of the truth here is fitting the facts for a lot of viewers better than the president's version of the truth fits the facts."

The rule of thumb, Crawford says, is anything seen longer than six months before is pretty much forgotten. Since the election is less than six months away, the film will be fresh in people's minds when they go to the polls.

Cagle expects it to continue to be a success. He notes, "This movie opened in 868 theaters, which makes its grosses all the more astounding, that it was No. 1. I think that, as the movie expands, is it's going to be making more money. It got very good word of mouth from people coming out of the film."

Hollywood stars, like Leonardo DiCaprio, are out there pushing the movie. Hollywood has never been afraid to get behind liberal causes, Cagle says, but in this case, "it's a little surprising, because this is such a controversial hot-button film. I think Leo DiCaprio probably alienated certain people out there who may not go see his movies anymore. Jane Fonda did the same thing years ago and she survived. So will Leo."

There has also been talk that the film's DVD will be rushed out by September or October, but Cagle says according to Moore there were no firm plans yet.

"Rushing a movie out this fast isn't all that unusual now," he says. "It's unusual for a hit movie. I would be very surprised, though, if Michael Moore doesn't get it out before the election, because he's said he wants to unseat Bush. This would be a tremendous anti-Bush statement to get out there right before the election."

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