An American Carol

Movie Information

The Story: An anti-American filmmaker is visited by three ghosts who aim to teach him the importance of America. The Lowdown: Another in a long line of recent unfunny spoofs that also has the added drawback of simpleminded political heavy-handedness.
Score:

Genre: Political Spoof
Director: David Zucker (Scary Movie 4)
Starring: Kevin Farley, Kelsey Grammer, Jon Voight, Dennis Hopper, Trace Adkins
Rated: PG-13

Seeing as how David Zucker’s newest spoof, An American Carol, is out to manhandle my political views—that of the bleeding-heart, wishy-washy pinko—I will freely admit that I am not the target audience for this movie. At the same time, I disagree with its right-wing political message for more reasons than a difference in ideological opinions: The film’s ideas are simply too tangled, contradictory and irresponsible to be effective. Zucker sees An American Carol as a satire of liberal Hollywood and, by extension, the “liberal media,” which I would assume encompasses me. Therefore, any denigration of the film’s politics immediately dredges up the sticky wicket of biased critics and their rejection of objectivity—no matter how impossible this may be within arts criticism—essentially making the film critic-proof to its core audience. But in the end, the film is just too willfully and painfully unfunny for there to even be a debate as to its merits as filmmaking.

The film is too broad—and ultimately, too ham-fisted—to work as political satire. Maybe it’s because high-minded political tracts and Leslie Nielson hitting small children in the head with various inanimate objects don’t quite mesh, but this kind of film only really works when there’s some subtlety involved, as opposed to Zucker’s out-and-out proselytizing. Back in 1986, Dennis Hopper, who has a small role in this movie, starred in Tobe Hooper’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, a film that works not just as Hooper’s sour reaction to the Reagan years, but also as an over-the-top, bitterly funny, incredibly gory horror picture. Here, Zucker can’t even make a good lowbrow spoof, let alone handle his message with the deft touch it needs.

An American Carol takes the bare bones of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol (an aspect of which I’m sure Dickens, Mr. Social Injustice himself, would’ve adored) and transposes them onto a plot (or something resembling one). The story involves a thinly veiled Michael Moore clone named Michael Malone (Kevin Farley, Johnson Family Vacation) learning about just how great America truly is. This is done by having Malone visited by the ghosts of three great Americans: General George S. Patton (Kelsey Grammer), George Washington (Jon Voight, apparently still wearing his fake schnoz from Bratz (2007)) and the greatest patriot America has ever seen, country-music star Trace Adkins.

The movie works on a few faulty assumptions, the greatest of which being that anyone who criticizes or questions America is automatically anti-American and doesn’t support the troops. It also plays up a supposed American infallibility, resulting in a “you’re with us or against us” attitude and a shortsighted view of global politics. Occasionally, the film will attempt to take a firm stance on something, only to end up contradicting itself a few minutes later. At one point, the movie decides that there’s no reason to make films about McCarthyism, Nazi Germany or slavery since those days have long passed; but it then tries to make a point about liberalism by bringing up the latter two in subsequent scenes, all the while completely ignoring historical facts. Later, the film creates the first pick-and-choose Constitution, as we get Hopper condemning the ACLU (here portrayed as zombies) for attempting to take away Second Amendment rights, while at the same time complaining about the separation of church and state. After this, the film goes into a diatribe about how the Fourth Amendment aids terrorism.

Besides being racist, homophobic, jingoistic and xenophobic, the film just isn’t funny. It’s filled with hoary slapstick and jokes involving the shocking revelation that Michael Moore is fat. As comedy, it’s a shambles. As political discourse, it’s even worse. Rated PG-13 for rude and irreverent content, and for language and brief drug material.

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21 thoughts on “An American Carol

  1. Dionysis

    Hmmm, sounds like this movie should be the feature film for the first annual Wingnut Film Festival.

  2. Ken Hanke

    I kind of wanted to see it out of morbid curiosity, but after Justin told me he was glad I hadn’t seen out of fear that I’d have had a seizure, I thought the better of it.

  3. Dionysis

    “I kind of wanted to see it out of morbid curiosity, but after Justin told me he was glad I hadn’t seen out of fear that I’d have had a seizure, I thought the better of it.”

    I’m willing to be money that this film will end up much like that virtually unseen ‘documentary’ called ‘Fahrenhype 911′ by second-rate actor Ron Silver. Within a couple of weeks after its release on DVD (I think it was a DVD-only release, however) it ended up going for a buck on Overstock.com, and they couldn’t unload it.

  4. Justin Souther

    I kind of wanted to see it out of morbid curiosity, but after Justin told me he was glad I hadn’t seen out of fear that I’d have had a seizure, I thought the better of it.

    I’m nothing if not kind.

  5. Ken Hanke

    I’m nothing if not kind.

    And you heard it directly from him.

  6. Roy

    Be fair. How could conservatives possibly be expected to produce something creative rather than dead-weight dross?

    I’m not being biased when I say that, even though I’m a liberal. I’m simply reflecting on the terms. Conservative: holding onto what already is, usually for dear life. Liberal: able to see, and grant legitimacy, to other points of view, such as black, gay, non-Christian, etc.

    So which group is going to feel more creative about life in general, and translate it into really creative art? Well, duh.

  7. “Be fair. How could conservatives possibly be expected to produce something creative rather than dead-weight dross?”

    As much as I hate to say it, you are right. The closest that they’ve ever come is TEAM AMERICA, but those guys are staunch Libertarians.

    I might disagree with a lot of what Moore has to say, but his films are entertaining, funny and well made.

    My favorite example is Fox News’ aborted attempt of ripping off The Daily Show…

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U5CL8SbPRVc

  8. Al Cottingham

    Of course Jason Southerner would not like this movie. Because it pokes fun at liberals, Michael Moore in particular. Now if it was a Michael Moore movie, Jason would give it 4 stars. How transparent. I’ve seen it. It is rolling-in-the-isles funny. Don’t deprive yourself of this fun movie just because a Mtn Express reviewer wants to be liberal politically correct. Let yourself be freedom of political correctness!

  9. Ken Hanke

    I’ve seen it. It is rolling-in-the-isles funny. Don’t deprive yourself of this fun movie just because a Mtn Express reviewer wants to be liberal politically correct. Let yourself be freedom of political correctness!

    Which “isles” did you roll in? The Thousand Isles?

    Let’s see, this movie opened at no. 9 last week (bad enough) and plunged to no. 15 (downright disastrous) this week — a drop of nearly 60% from its lackluster opening weekend. I hardly think such a dismal showing at the box office is attributable to the desire of an Xpress reviewer and his desire to be “liberal politically correct.”

  10. Justin Souther

    Of course Jason Southerner would not like this movie. Because it pokes fun at liberals, Michael Moore in particular. Now if it was a Michael Moore movie, Jason would give it 4 stars. How transparent. I’ve seen it. It is rolling-in-the-isles funny. Don’t deprive yourself of this fun movie just because a Mtn Express reviewer wants to be liberal politically correct. Let yourself be freedom of political correctness!

    Looks like Roy was right a few posts back.

  11. Dionysis

    There is some irony in this; one of the actors in this film, long-time conservative Republican Dennis Hopper, just came out and endorsed Obama; he said he is “praying for him to win.”

  12. Al Cottingham

    Justun: “Looks like Roy was right a few posts back.”

    I am not surprised Jason wants to deflect and not answer my criticisms of his “review”. LOL. Y’all see the movie. It is FUNNY, “I don’t care who you are”. Political correctness belongs in college, not in real life.

  13. Ken Hanke

    Dennis Hopper, just came out and endorsed Obama; he said he is “praying for him to win.”

    Now, that’s funny!

  14. Ken Hanke

    I am not surprised Jason wants to deflect and not answer my criticisms of his “review”. LOL. Y’all see the movie. It is FUNNY, “I don’t care who you are”. Political correctness belongs in college, not in real life.

    Yes, but Mr. Mill…er Cottingham, but isn’t Larry the Cable Guy one of your heroes? And don’t you think Caddyshack is a comedy classic?

    And why should “Jason” answer your “criticisms?” All you did was fling a bunch of typical right-wing “you’re biased” (like you’re not) crap around after “Jason” went out of his way to tell the reader that he’s a liberal, thereby admitting that bias. He also stated why the film wasn’t funny, which is more than you’ve done. You’ve just claimed it was funny. And that’s offering nothing other than raw opinion, I don’t care who you are.

  15. Ken Hanke

    By the way, for those who want to see the film in question, you’d better move fast. It disappears altogether from the Hollywood on Friday and is cut to two shows a day at the Carmike (with some of those shows dropped for special shows of Cirque de Soleil: Delerium). A rousing success, it ain’t.

  16. Jim Bob Thornton

    Ken, don’t let yourself get so worked up about the scrawlings of this rightwinger. God knows Asheville is still weird and will vote Obama in. Relax mi amigo. We got this town “owned”.

  17. bobaloo

    Let’s see, this movie opened at no. 9 last week (bad enough) and plunged to no. 15 (downright disastrous) this week—a drop of nearly 60% from its lackluster opening weekend. I hardly think such a dismal showing at the box office is attributable to the desire of an Xpress reviewer and his desire to be “liberal politically correct.”

    To be fair, the BO for “Carol” seems to be on track with “Rendition”, a movie which you gave four stars.
    Also, the damned singing Chihuahua movie is up to 50 million, so BO doesn’t mean a damn thing.

  18. Ken Hanke

    To be fair, the BO for “Carol” seems to be on track with “Rendition”, a movie which you gave four stars. Also, the damned singing Chihuahua movie is up to 50 million, so BO doesn’t mean a damn thing.

    Actually, what I was trying to convey is that reviews have only a marginal impact on box office, i.e., no one was interested in seeing An American Carol before Justin gave it a bad review. Similarly, there’s always going to be an audience for some things like the Chihuahua thing no matter how much a reviewer warns against it.

    The idea that Justin’s “biased review” was keeping people from the film in significant numbers is absurd. Indeed, it’s the sort of liberal review that, if anything, might motivate an outraged conservative to go see the movie.

    I’m not saying that critics have no influence, because they do, but it’s within certain boundaries and with certain types of films. For instance, I can positively impact certain kinds of movies — a Darjeeling Limited, a Be Kind Rewind — but that’s because these films are of a kind that tend to appeal to my readership. I can rave all day about how great a movie like Wayne Kramer’s Running Scared is, but it’s not the type of film that does that. Similarly, there was never an audience for Rendition — it’s been demonstrated time and time again that no one wants to go see movies that deal with the Iraq war.

  19. Sean Williams

    Let yourself be freedom of political correctness!

    I will be treasured myself of this sagacious advice.

  20. Sean Williams

    Conservative: holding onto what already is, usually for dear life.

    That’s only true in the philosophical sense, though. In political terms, “conservativism” is not the retention of traditional values so much as the philosophy of limited government — although, in practice, the one former ideal often supersedes the latter.

    Liberal: able to see, and grant legitimacy, to other points of view, such as black, gay, non-Christian, etc.

    Contrary to your suggestion, homophobia, racism, and religious intolerance are not always components of conservativism. Nor, in point of fact, are Christians always conservative; early disciples actually practiced a form of communism.

    I’m socially liberal, but on behalf of my many open-minded conservative friends, I resent the implication that only liberals are capable of legitimatizing opposing points of view. I’ve met some extreme leftists who were so convinced of their own enlightenment that they refused to accept the opinions of anyone whom they believed to be less accepting than themselves. And because they were so convinced of their own enlightenment, they were totally oblivious to the double standard.

    Your description of conservatives as troglodytes “holding onto what already is” represents a classic and deeply ironic straw man: it is smugly certain in its assumption that all conservatives are smugly certain of their assumptions. It also endorses a fallacious causality, post hoc, ergo proctor hoc. There are iconoclastic conservatives out there…just not very many of them.

    The real problem with American politics is our cultural tendency to regard binary oppositions as having more “integrity” than compromise. Certainly, conservative politicians have endorsed that paradigm most actively. But like it or not, we liberals have contributed, too, with our insistence that we have the monopoly on tolerance.

    it’s been demonstrated time and time again that no one wants to go see movies that deal with the Iraq war.

    Given the public’s antipathy toward the Bush Administration, I think that the general reluctance to see Iraq War movies has less to do with politics and more to do with a refusal to countenance grim reality. We want comfortable entertainment, not truth.

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