Monday, October 6, 2008

An American Carol: Fa la la la la, la la la la

Hectic weekend that it was, I was glad to get out of the house for a bit to the movies, and did go--with much trepidation to see Zucker's An American Carol.

Regular readers know how I feel about clap humor, but as I pointed out earlier, this is the first overtly conservative movie made in my lifetime that's ever gotten a semi-wide release.

So, what did I think?

Not bad. Pretty good even. I didn't laugh as much as I did for, say, Dodgeball. And I would issue the caveats that you probably had best like the Zucker style of humor. Having said that, this movie probably falls somewhere between BASEketball and Top Secret! in terms of comparison with his earlier work. And it's more like the former in terms of "reality": In other words, where the Top Secret!/Airplane! style of movie has people acting deadpan in a zany world, the BASEketball-style movie posits a less zany reality with more broadly humorous characters.

I laughed a lot more than I expected to, and it works much better than I would have thought. There were only a few parts I cringed at, and a couple of genuinely touching parts.

The story concerns a fat, narcissistic documentary-maker named Michael Malone who wants to stamp out the 4th of July celebrations. Some terrorists want to make a professional jihad movie using a Hollywood director, but they need the most America-hating director in Hollywood. This provides a framework for a Christmas Carol ripoff that powers the bulk of the film.

There isn't a rigorous adherence to the Dickens story, which is good: The primary ghost who torments Malone is George S. Patton, who takes him to see the anti-war protests of WWII and how life would be if the Civil War hadn't been fought. (George Washington makes a brief appearance. And the third ghost is living country music star Trace Adkins!)

The movie opens strong with a "duck and cover"-style terrorist training film, follows into a weak (more accurate than funny) parody of "Sicko", segues from there into a sometimes funny, sometimes not parody of a movie awards show, and hits and misses for the rest of the movie. But a lot of the less funny parts are worth a chuckle, and occasionally, if you're inclined, a clap.

What particularly worked for me were: the zombie lawyers, the slavery scene, the crowd chanting scene, the "It's the Christians!" documentary, and a surprising amount of the slapstick.

What didn't work for me were: the Bill O'Reilly scene (the first one, the second one in the outhouse was pretty funny) with Rosie O' Connell (except for the "It's the Christians!" documentary), the Hitler scene, and the occasional long didactic tract thrown.

Parts I'm on the fence about: the '68 musical number, the inclusion of certain serious moments, and the inclusion of heavy slapstick during some of those moments.

I wouldn't expect critics to review this favorably. I'm a little surprise no kudos have been forthcoming for the talent: Kelsey Grammer does a servicable Patton, for example, which isn't easy to pull off in the shadow of George C. Scott. Chriss Anglin plays a pissed JFK, more accent than looks, while Fred Travelena does a Carter that's all accent. Voight plays Washington himself during one of the heavier moments, and pulls it off.

Kevin Farley plays Malone, and if there's a problem, it's that he doesn't ooze a fraction of the sleaze Michael Moore does. He's self-absorbed, cruel and destructive but he never reaches the level of dislikability that Moore manages effortlessly. In fact, he's kind of a heroic character: He realizes the error of his ways and risks public humiliation to save lives. And while there are a few stale fat jokes, he's never portrayed as stupid.

And there are a bunch of other people you're likely to recognize: Gary Coleman, Kevin Sorbo, Gail O' Grady and Dennis Hopper as a gun-totin' judge.

The audience laughed--though not at the whole thing--and clapped at the end pretty easily, but the theater was only about half full.

The Boy loved it, by his own admission being very right wing. He wanted to know if there other such movies and I had to regretfully inform him that I wasn't aware of anything like it. That seems a little skewed.


  1. I read a review yesterday which called it "unfunny". A MSM movie reviewer of course so his reaction was predictable.

    I then googled unfunny and the movie title and got like 300 news hits. It's like they got together and agreed the word of the day is "unfunny".

  2. It wasn't OOTP or anything, but I and the rest of the audience were laughing genuinely. It wasn't all clap humor--and actually, most of the clap humor went by pretty fast.

    Where it didn't, the move felt clunky. The whole Bill O'Reilly segment, for example, with Rosie spouting off about fire not melting steel.

    I would encourage anthropologically-minded folks--especially left-leaning anthropologically-minded folks to go see it to see what life is like for conservatives pretty much all the time.

  3. Would it have been better if they didn't cut the scene where Gary C calls out to fellow slave Barack to help with the car washing?

    Funny stuff.

  4. Maybe.

    It's not really the material, it's the delivery.

    On "South Park", Terence and Philip do nothing but fart, and yet it's sometimes hysterical.

    From a political standpoint, it was interesting that they had him not just living in a world of slaves, but owning slaves himself.

    I think that's probably off: Communists have always gotten their members from the lower/downtrodden classes. After all, in Communism, everyone is a slave to the state. (Except for the few who aren't, wink-wink.)

    That's why it's so fair!

  5. I skimmed about 3 reviews online and they all said it was awful. One of them said one of the worst movies ever made. I am glad you say it is worth watching because I am very curious to see it--but I wouldn't have bothered if it was truly bad.

    A friend loaned me an audiobook for a car trip a couple years ago. It was about liberal hypocrisy and there was a chapter on Michael Moore. That guy is a dildo. I mean, an even bigger dildo than you think.

  6. That reminds me I read one of Mooore's books once. I was trying to be open-minded I swear.

    It was so juvenile. For every problem, Moore blamed the same group. I guess that I should expected that based on the book title "Stupid White Men".

    I patted myself on the back for reading it but said never again would I read a liberal's tiresome rant. After that, someone tried to give me an Al Franken book as a gag gift and I almost shoved it up their ass.

    Keep in mind I used to be a liberal Dem - I think that is what makes some family and friends mad.

  7. Hey, I used to like Michael Moore. Roger and Me is a slick piece of propaganda, until you find out that Moore did actually talk to Roger and just didn't bother to mention it.

    What turned me off him, though, was TV Nation. In the first episode, he goes down to Mexico--about a week after NAFTA passed--to show how NAFTA hadn't improved conditions yet.

    But the killer was his socialized medicine gambit: He found some hospital where people were trading their labor for medical care. Everyone seemed to be happy with this. The hospital got reimbursed and the patients weren't welshing. And they all talked to him, very proud about the whole arrangement.

    And this schmuck turns around and sets up a faux-slave-camp in the lot next door. These people were really hurt by this, and Moore showed this as if it were evidence of their guilt or somesuch.

    As I said, Farley is waaaay too likable to be a convincing Moore parody.


Grab an umbrella. Unleash hell. Your mileage may vary. Results not typical. If swelling continues past four hours, consult a physician.