What happened
Executives at Universal Pictures are worried that the political undercurrent in their new film Charlie Wilson’s War might cause it to flop at the box office. Directed by Mike Nichols and starring Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts, and Phillip Seymour Hoffman, the movie—based on the 2003 true-story book of the same name by George Crile—tells the story of socialite Joanne Herring and scandal prone Democratic senator Wilson, who led congress into supporting a covert CIA operation that supplied the Afghan Mujahideen during the Soviet-Afghan War. “There’s people at the studio, of course, who are losing sleep over it,” Hanks told The New York Times. “There’s a possibility that this movie does absolutely nothing. None whatsoever.”

What the commentators said
With all the “sex-and-drugs,” said Richard L. Berke in The New York Times, Charlie Wilson’s War might “sound like a surefire hit for the Christmas movie season.” But it’s also about “military spending bills and kids with their arms blown off,” and even “a mere whiff of more depressing headlines out of the Middle East may be enough to drive some people home to watch a DVD of the Yule log.”

Well, Nichols did try to make the film more palatable for the masses, said David Briggs in Cleveland’s The Plain Dealer. But by doing that, the movie doesn’t “just rewrite history, it maims, mutilates and tortures it until America’s enemies are dehumanized, our arms merchants are glorified, and any rational consideration of the fate of the Afghan people becomes irrelevant.”

Don’t “underestimate” Mike Nichols, said Glenn Kenny in the Los Angeles Times. “From the very beginning of his moviemaking career,” he has “displayed an extraordinary knack for knowing what the adult moviegoing public of America wants to see, even before said public knows it wants to see it.” Case in point: “Moviegoers weren’t actively clamoring for a picture defining an emerging generation when Nichol’s sprang The Graduate on them in 1967.” Charlie Wilson’s War is “a deliberate crowd pleaser, from a director who knows how to pick ’em.”