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October 8, 2008

FILM REVIEW: An American Carol Will Make You Laugh, If You’re Willing


By D.F. Krause

An American Carol was certainly produced for the amusement of people with conservative political leanings. To deny that would be silly. And it certainly succeeds at that particular mission. If you can keep from laughing when terrorists in Afghanistan truck in a bunch of sombrero-wearing Mexicans to do “jobs the Taliban won’t do,” you’re either missing your funny bone or you listen to NPR a lot.


The same goes for a cabal of college professors breaking into a musical number titled “1968,” in which they taunt horrified parents about how they intend to reward their hard-earned tuition dollars with four years of political indoctrination.


The laugh-out-loud moments come fast and furious during the film’s first half. Sometimes they are uproarious, like when a group of undead zombies tries to take over a New York courtroom on behalf of the ACLU. Sometimes they are subtle, like when the main character, left-wing filmmaker “Michael Malone,” loses control of a Twinkie – only to retrieve it the following morning when he finds it stuck to his giant flat-screen TV.


Oh yes. It is funny. The challenge in reviewing it is to step outside your political predilections – for or against, so that goes for both of you, Messrs. Ebert and Medved – and assess just how good a film it is.


To place it in the proper genre, think of the Naked Gun films, which, like An American Carol, were directed by David Zucker. It will come as no surprise that Leslie Nielsen shows up here as a narrating storyteller of sorts. Presumably the entire tale comes from the loopy mind of a half-asleep grandpa who’s already told the kids the Scrooge story and needs to come up with a new twist.


So he invents Michael Malone (Kevin Farley), an America-hating documentary filmmaker who is leading a movement to have the Fourth of July abolished. Why? You have to ask? Because America bludgeons the world, pollutes the air, whatever. It’s incidental. What’s important is that Mr. Malone attracts the support of organizations like MooveAlong.org and Vegans Against Fur, as well as the interest of three terrorists who hope he will serve as their useful idiot while they plot to destroy Madison Square Garden during a patriotic rally.


But Malone is visited by three spirits – four if you count JFK – who try to teach him the true meaning of American patriotism. This is where the story roughly tracks with Dickens’s A Christmas Carol, although most of the spirit work falls to Gen. George Patton – hilariously portrayed by Kelsey Grammer. Also assisting in the spirit work are George Washington (Jon Voight) and the Angel of Death (Trace Adkins).


The film is heavy on slapstick, with Malone getting whomped in the head seemingly every 10 seconds or so – with everything from the Liberty Bell to an anvil thrown by a peace activist when he starts to break down and admit that maybe we do need to stand up and fight the terrorists. This is a David Zucker film, after all, so no one should be shocked when crippled children in hospital beds accidentally fall off boats and clumsy terrorists blow themselves up before entering the “American Disco” because they waited until the last minute and got the directions wrong.


It’s hard to get good jihadist help these days.


Less effective than the slapstick was the attempt to recreate Dickens’s “Tiny Tim,” angle – a crippled great nephew named Timmy who is hoping Uncle Michael will come through with money for a needed surgery, but is always disappointed because his uncle is self-absorbed and unreliable, and as we are reminded 50 or 60 times in the film, documentary filmmakers don’t make real money like their feature-film counterparts.


The Michael Malone character is, of course, a satire of Michael Moore, and Farley gives him a bumbling yet jovial enough persona that he comes across as a guy who is indeed thick-headed (as Gen. Patton observes), but mainly because he’s just never really thought things through all that much and finds it easier not to.


So is it a good movie or not? Maybe it does depend on your political predisposition. If you’re capable of finding humor in things that are funny, even though they may be skewering your side, you should find plenty to laugh about here. The gags are hilarious. (And of course, if you lean to the right, it goes without saying that you’ll laugh like crazy.)


If you’re the type who gets offended when your side is getting ribbed, you’re only going to get mad, and you don’t need that – although if you really want to get mad, you always could just stay home and watch Fox News Channel for free.


Three stars (out of four)


© 2008 North Star Writers Group. May not be republished without permission.


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