An American Carol Movie Review

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To hear Conservatives tell it, Hollywood is out of touch with the true "America." To them, the ultra-liberal product produced by the morally (and creatively) bankrupt individuals of Tinseltown just doesn't reflect the country's true tone and temperament. As a way of standing up for what they hold true and dear, card carrying member of the USA, A-OK brigade, David Zucker (of Airplane! and Naked Gun fame) has created a pro-country, anti-dissent spoof of the Charles Dickens yuletide classic. Yet An American Carol misses a golden opportunity to show a sense of humor. Instead, it wallows in the kind of "us vs. them" tactics that created such complaints in the first place.

Michael Malone (Kevin Farley) is a documentary filmmaker famous for his anti-USA efforts like America Sucks the Big One. On the strength of his celebrity, he's organized a march against the Fourth of July. While his agent (James Woods) thinks he's crazy, a group of terrorists led by the evil Aziz (Robert Davi) think he's the perfect patsy for their ongoing jihad. They hire him to make a "movie" which is actually a front for a suicide bombing at a Trace Adkins concert. Happy to pursue his radical idealistic ends, Malone is suddenly visited by the ghost of his idol, JFK (Chris Anglin). He warns that he will be visited by three more ghosts, including Gen. George F. Patton (Kelsey Grammer). All hope to change his left-leaning ways, guiding him toward a more patriotic position.

An American Carol is either genius or genocide. It's an intriguing experiment awash in poor execution. There is no middle ground -- it's either the cleverest swipe at self-important liberals ever crafted, or a pitiful bit of artistic arrogance. If you find yourself siding with Fox News and Joe the Plumber more than MSNBC and Rachel Maddow, you'll squeal with red state delight. If you enjoy things like wit, subtlety, and balance, you'll be bored to tears. There's no denying Zucker has a right to complain. He and the rest of his family-values L.A.-list (Grammer, Woods, Dennis Hopper, and Jon Voight) can cackle and sneer at activists, intellectuals, and the equally narrow-minded left, but doing so in a sledgehammer spoof style a la the Scary Movie films may not be the proper entertainment tactic.

For such a comedy to work, the message must be at least halfway serious, even within a Hellsapoppin' lampoon approach. Outrageous foundations make for incongruous funny business -- and there are a lot of outlandish positions here. You don't laugh as much as scratch your head in horrified disbelief as 9/11 and the Civil War are sacrificed for the sake of a giggle. While Michael Moore bears the brunt of Zucker's bile (the only crime he's not guilty of, apparently, is child molestation), anyone opposed to the War in Iraq, Bush's Homeland Security measures, and Judeo-Christian beliefs is equally labeled a radical, or a terrorist. Even worse, little kids often espouse these venomous sentiments, cursing as only cloying eight-year-old child actors can.

Still, one has to compliment Zucker. He is clearly standing up for his beliefs, and feels that there is a whole NASCAR nation ready to embrace his "love it or leave it" sense of humor. And one can certainly see fans of co-star Adkins and other CMT favorites enjoying this Larry the Cable Guy level of discourse. But undermining anything other than hot dogs, apple pie, and bald eagles (even secondary education gets a gouging) shows a kind of jingoistic intolerance which taints everything. Political satire may be the hardest kind of comedy to pull off in this particular social clime. An American Carol is just too insular to be engaging.

George and me.

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An American Carol Rating

" Grim "

Rating: PG, 2008

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