“The sky is falling!” the record and film industries cry as, for the average citizen, the Internet explodes with uncharted, and even entirely free, ways to consume content. The most famous example is probably Radiohead’s pay-what-you-want release of its latest album, In Rainbows, earlier this year. There have also been several free online movies, including the 9.11 “truth” film Loose Change and Jesus/Federal Reserve/9.11 conspiracy movie Zeitgeist, both of which have had millions of downloads on, among other sites, Google Video.

Michael Moore’s latest, Slacker Uprising, released Tuesday Sept. 23 on the Web site slackeruprising.com, is a free stream or download, until Oct. 14 (in North America only, where Moore purchased the rights). Slacker Uprising follows in the Loose Change/Zeitgeist model, save that Moore, given his past success, could probably have enjoyed a somewhat profitable theatrical run had he chosen normal distribution methods. On the Web site, Moore describes the free distribution as “a gift to my fans.”

But, had he released it conventionally, a somewhat profitable theatrical run is the best Moore—who, in interviews, attempts to give the impression that he is sacrificing $20-$40 million of his own money—could expect. Had it been released theatrically, Slacker Uprising, which charts Moore’s 62-city speaking-tour attempt to bribe enough slacker college students with Top Ramen to tip the 2004 election, would have certainly been a critical and commercial flop. It lacks both the power and the controversy that made his normal, topic-based films successful.

Still, as a freebie—for those members of the left-wing choir who can tolerate Moore’s situational narcissism—one has the decided impression that they’re getting their money’s worth, maybe even a bit more. Part elegiac we-came-so-close tragedy, part rockin’ tunes, MTV-style motivational concert tour, Slacker Uprising contains some funny moments, a few decent guest performances (Roseanne Barr’s rabidly sarcastic stand-up routine, for example) and provides, in the run-up to this equally critical election, a reminder both of what’s at stake and that, yes, failure is indeed possible again.

Slacker Uprising is in no way—as the devastating Fahrenheit 9.11 was—a film to show to one’s Bush-loving family member. It would only infuriate them. With his trademark unfair editing, Moore stitches together footage of the wackiest-sounding right-wingers into humorous montages of moronity, while he selects the most attractive and well-spoken Dem-youth to speak the heroic Moorian truth to power. (For those on the left who don’t see any harm in such aggressively partisan editorial unfairness, one need only watch Ben Stein’s intelligent design propaganda Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed to feel what it’s like to be on the other side of cinematic slander.)

But, given that it’s free, Slacker Uprising is worthwhile entertainment for left-leaning politicos looking for something to watch between episodes of The Daily Show.

Slacker Uprising
Written and directed by Michael Moore
With Michael Moore, Roseanne Barr, Tom Morello, Joan Baez and Michael Stipe
102 min. NR