In general, most reviewers acknowledged Stone's attempt to be more bipartisan and fair in his portrayal of Bush than he had been in his previous films about presidents (Nixon, for example). They also praised the fluidity of the film. The narrative moved well and was easy to watch. However, the general consensus was that he was too mild and superficial and that the film did not delve deeply enough into Bush's life and presidency. The film focuses heavily on Bush's Oedipal complex and his love of baseball, using a recurring scene of Bush in a metaphoric baseball field of dreams. However, significant parts of his terms in office, such as the 2000 election controversy and the September 11th attacks, are left out. Also, the film was released too close to the actual events to avoid an "SNL-esque" feeling. Specifically, Thandie Newton's portrayal of Condoleezza Rice was heavily criticized as over the top and cruel.
- Ansen, David. "Not Much Dubya in Stone's 'W.'" Rev. of W. Newsweek 10 Oct. 2008. http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/2008/10/10/not-much-dubya-in-stone-s-w.html
- W. doesn't have the appeal one may expect because Bush is no longer a" hot topic." When Anderson Cooper called him a "high-functioning moron" on CNN, no one even reacted because the public is so accustomed to hearing the president described as such. The president's mishaps are no longer shocking. Further, both conservatives and liberals will be disappointed by the film. Bush-lovers will call it a caricature, while Bush-haters will say it's not extreme enough, more refined than usual. Ansen criticizes the baseball field image, saying it's cliched and overdone. What he does like, however, is the "forward momentum" the film possesses: the narrative is compelling and energetic. Nevertheless, the timing of the film is incorrect. It's a little too late, as Bush is no longer surprising. However, it is also a little too recent, as some of the actors seem more like impersonators, making it difficult to avoid SNL-like humor.
- Dargis, Manolha. "Oliver Stone's Vision Thing: Bush, the Family." Rev. of W. New York Times 16 Oct. 2008: n. pag. Web. 19 June 2012. http://movies.nytimes.com/2008/10/17/movies/17ston.html
- Dargis begins urging the viewer to remember that the film is, in fact, a work of historical fiction, not a documentary. While it doesn't provide us with any new insight, the film does remind us of Bush's tumultuous journey to the White House. The symbolism is a little heavy, especially the metaphor of Bush's "baseball field of dreams," and it is hard for actors to play historical figures that were such a large presence in the viewers' lives and that are still alive. Moreover, at the time the film was released, Bush was still the president. Overall, Dargis praises the fluid approach to the narrative and the fact that the film is more unbiased that Stone's other films.
- Ebert, Roger. "W." Rev. of W. Chicago Sun-Times 15 Oct. 2008: n. pag. Web. 19 June 2012. http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20081015/REVIEWS/810150285
- Stone creates an enthralling storyline, which, unlike Stone's other two films, "contains no revisionist history." However, the film doesn't delve deep enough. We only see the characters from the outside, not what makes them tick.
- Edelstein, David. Rev. of W. New York Magazine 20 Oct. 2008: n. pag. Web. 19 June 2012. http://nymag.com/listings/movie/w/
- Edelstein takes a moderate stance on the film, calling it a "bloodless puppet show," but doesn't completely hate it. He gives Stone credit for not completely mocking Bush. Almost everything Bush did throughout the film, including the invasion of Iraq, can be attributed to his desire to prove himself to George Bush Sr. Stone executes this Oedipal motif very poorly. In fact, much of the dialogue is inappropriate, as there is no differentiation between "public and private discourse." Stone made a mistake when he tried to be too moderate, for his biggest asset is his "lusty, blowhard showmanship."
- Grenier, Cynthia. "Stone's Bush Film Is Offensive." Human Events. 20 October 2008. Web. 9 July 2012.
- The film is extremely offensive and "artistically crude." Stone belittles Bush's religious experience and makes fun of him in a scene where we see him sitting on the toilet while talking to Laura. The film has two basic plotlines: Bush's relationship with his father and his decision to invade Iraq. The scenes that show Bush's reasoning behind going to war are boring rather than informative. The acting is poor and, at times, bizarre, and the women in the film have almost no role.
- Hoberman, J. "Bush's Brain." Rev. of W. Village Voice 15 Oct. 2008: n. pag. Web. 28 June 2012.
- The film is surreal and "trippy." It skips around chronologically, focusing ultimately on Bush's decision to invade Iraq and exploring the idea that he is motivated by a desire to take revenge on his father. It also shows how Bush Jr. had strong insight into American politics. He used his religious affiliations to win the Republican nomination and to win re-election in 2004. Brolin's portrayal of Bush is the least nuanced. He relies on stupidity. The film should be mildly helpful to the Democratic party in the 2008 election.
- Hornaday, Ann. "'W.': Mission Not Accomplished." Washington Post 17 Oct. 2008: n. pag. Print. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/story/2008/10/16/ST2008101601746.html?sid=ST2008101601746
- Hornaday dislikes the film, finding it rushed and poorly timed. Like many other reviewers, she compares it to an SNL skit and asks why Americans would want to watch a movie that we're still "living in" and that we will continue to be living in even after President Bush leaves office. It shows that W. was quickly put together in order to release before the November 4th election. Nixon, another Stone film, was much more subtle and complex, giving the viewer an intricate portrayal of the president's motives and psychology. Conversely, Stone's portrayal of Bush and his cabinet members, specifically Condoleezza Rice, is excessively cruel and "all over the place." Overall, Stone paints Bush into a caricature, trivializing him, and failing to provide us with any new insight into the man who will be remembered as one of the most significant presidents of his era.
- LaSalle, Mick. "Movie Review." Rev. of W. San Francisco Chronicle 17 Oct. 2008: n. pag. Web. 19 June 2012. http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2008/10/16/DDTD13HNU5.DTL&type=movies
- Even after eight years in office, Bush is still an enigma, and no portrayal of him will satisfy everyone. Stone's view of Bush "has its limitations"; there is a certain shrewdness and charm about Bush that Brolin does not portray in the film. The film does a good job of portraying Bush's Oedipal Complex but doesn't delve deeply enough into such other aspects of his life as his religious conversion. Stone is too secular to fully understand Bush's relationship with God and how he truly believed that he was chosen to become president of the United States. The film's portrayal of Condoleezza Rice, which is especially harsh, is reminiscent of an SNL parody.
- Liddle, Rod. "I Loved Oliver Stone's Bush Film -- and I Know Why the Critics Hated It." Rev. of W. Spectator [London] 22 Nov. 2008: n. pag. Web. 26 June 2012.
- The film was well made, cinematically. It was witty, and the acting was good, except for Thandie Newton's portrayal of Condoleezza Rice, which was over the top. However, many reviewers, specifically those from Europe, disliked it. Liddle argues this is because it portrayed Bush in a kinder, more understanding light than reviewers wanted to see. In Europe, Bush is viewed as completely evil. The film would have been received much better had it completely ripped the president apart.
- Noah, Timothy "Dubya, Stoned: Why Oliver Stone had to bowdlerize our president's life story." Slate Magazine 17 October 2008. http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/chatterbox/2008/10/dubya_stoned.html
- Bush's life is a series of film-worthy experiences. Though there were a few details that were altered for the sake of making the film interesting, for the most part the events portrayed were historically accurate. In fact, there are a few quotes and events that happened during Bush's presidency that could have added to his caricature as an extremely conservative president that Stone chose to leave out. For example, in 1999, Bush openly mocked Karla Tucker, a woman on death row who had asked him to spare her life. However, this scene, and others similar to it, were left out of the film. It seems that Stone toned down his portrayal of Bush, possibly because the truth was too ugly and uncomfortable to watch.
- Rapold, Nicolas. "W." Sight and Sound. British Film Institute, 19.1 (2009): 88.
- Despite being notorious for creating revisionist films, Stone is extremely fair in his portrayal of President Bush. The film, which utilizes famous incidents and "character signposting," is fluid but unsatisfying, which "may be oddly appropriate given the unpopularity of its subject." There are two basic plot lines -- 1) Bush's life before his presidency and his need to impress his father, and 2) his decisions while in office regarding the Iraq war. All the scenes are based on widely known events, which creates a problem, as the audience is as familiar with the storyline as the director. The film is straightforward and unreflective, possibly because of the extremely short production time. It is underdone and is missing such significant parts of Bush's presidency as the September eleventh attacks and the 2000 election.
- Schwarzbaum, Lisa. "W." Rev. of W. Entertainment Weekly 24 Oct. 2008: n. pag. Web. 19 June 2012. http://www.ew.com/ew/article/0,,20233285,00.html
- Schwarzbaum doesn't like the film. Stone undertook a very difficult task, and he failed to show exactly what makes Bush, a very complex and misunderstood man, the way he is. The best aspect of the film is Brolin's acting, as he does a great job portraying Bush, copying Bush's mannerisms very well without seeming like a caricature. However, some of the other characters, such as Condoleezza Rice and Colin Powell, are grossly oversimplified. Ultimately, Stone throws together different images of moments from Bush's younger life, but these independent memories don't mesh together well to create a cohesive film with significant insight.
- Svetkey, Benjamin. "First Look: W., Oliver Stone's Bush Biopic." Entertainment Weekly 7 May 2008. http://www.ew.com/ew/article/0,,20198476,00.html
- The timing of W. makes it automatically provocative, as Bush will still be in office when it is released, and it is being released during an election year, so it may influence the 2008 election. Stone said publicly that the film will be a fair portrayal of the president, but many critics accuse him of trying to sway the election. There is much debate over the movie's accuracy. Historian Robert Draper said that the film "just misses the guy . . . you come away with an even more hyperbolized caricature of Bush the Cowboy President than is already out there." However, Stone maintains that he is just trying to make a film about an extremely interesting and humorous president.
- Toplin, Robert Brent. "W." Journal of American History 96.1 (2009): 315-18.
- The film offers an empathetic perspective on the president, showing some of his more likable characteristics. However, it still makes the audience wonder how a man with so many flaws could have become the president. The film definitely blames Bush's simpleminded approach to political issues for some of the mistakes during his presidency, but it also shows that members of his cabinet were, at least in part, responsible for manipulating the president. Stone is critical of the decision to invade Iraq. It is clear that most of Bush's cabinet members were wrongfully confident in the existence of weapons of mass destruction, which were never actually found. He presents a conspiracy theory, showing Vice President Cheney arguing the monetary merits of involvement in the Middle East and saying "There is no exit strategy." The film suffered poor box office sales, as most political films do. While creating his film, Stone had to come up with a way to engage the audience despite the fact that his film dealt with the same issues as almost all other political films -- corruption, deception, and the abuse of power. He attempted to do this by portraying Bush in a more empathetic light than expected. He does not mock Bush's religious conversion, and he shows him as a charismatic, fun-loving man. When exploring Bush's psychological motivations, Stone does, however, criticize Bush's religious fervor for making him unable to view multiple aspects of a situation. He also explores the idea that Bush is motivated by a desire to prove that he is more apt as president than his father was. Many prominent members of the Republican party, including Karl Rove and Jeb Bush, made it clear that this assertion was ludicrous.
- Tucker, Reed. "STONE THROWER: OLIVER STONE SAYS EVERY SCENE IN 'W.' IS ROOTED IN FACT. WE PUT THE PRESIDENTIAL BIOPIC TO THE TEST." New York Post 12 October 2008. http://www.nypost.com/p/entertainment/movies/item_QnFbwVa8K3d0QMxGkArhdN;jsessionid=B69EAFD23CDB7B1108E9BAFF3F7B6725
- Stone's portrayal of Bush was sympathetic. He is shown as a man struggling to do the right thing but ultimately failing. A number of the scenes in the motive were fact-checked by the New York Post. The scene in which he gets into a fight with his father, asking him if he wanted to "go manna a manna right here" is based on a true event, as is the one where he says that he wants to run for president "because God told him to." The scene where Condoleezza Rice says that Morocco will help the United States out by giving them trained monkeys, however, is not very historically accurate. Though a report about the use of 2,000 trained simians surfaced in 2003, it was never confirmed by the Moroccan embassy.
Brinkley, Alan. "From Man to Mockery, and Back Again: In 'W.,' Oliver Stone approaches his subject as a historian, not just a filmmaker. The widely reviled Bush comes off better than you'd think." Newsweek 20 October 2008.
Connelly, Phoebe. "You Don't Know Bush." American Prospect 16 October 2008. Web. 9 July 2012. http://prospect.org/article/you-dont-know-bush
Corliss, Richard. "Oliver Stone's Verdict on George W." Time 13 October 2008. Web. 9 July 2012. http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1851110,00.html
Denby, David. "Troubled Sons." New Yorker 27 October 2008. Web. 9 July 2012. http://www.newyorker.com/arts/critics/cinema/2008/10/27/081027crci_cinema_denby?currentPage=all
Homans, John. "Hubris Inc." New York Magazine 12 October 2008. Web. 9 July 2012. http://nymag.com/movies/profiles/51160/
Rothkopf, Josh. "A Look at Oliver Stone's 'W.'" ABC-TV http://abcnews.go.com/WNT/video?id=6059535