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.
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.