Movie Review: An American Carol
It's not every day, or every year, or every decade that Hollywood comes out with an unabashedly conservative movie. There was the Passion of the Christ, though that was a Mel Gibson vanity project, albeit a very good one, and then there was...I'm not sure there have been any more. So when David Zucker came out with An American Carol, a film that exists solely to mock liberals, people noticed. Conservatives were encouraged by this film's existence--it seemed that at least one man in Hollywood was willing to take on Hollywood's liberal agenda.
Actually, a lot more than one man--in addition to David Zucker (of Airplane! and Naked Gun fame), stars like Jon Voight, Trace Adkins, and Kelsey Grammar signed on too. In addition to its reasonably impressive star power, An American Carol had a decent budget--this wouldn't be a low-budgeted, desperate spoof like Scary Movie 4. An American Carol had the potential to be good.
Of course, it also had a lot of potential to be bad. Most of the movie's stars are a bit past their prime, and David Zucker, impressive career notwithstanding, has sunk to directing movies such as, well, Scary Movie 4. And agenda driven humor can be very successful (the Daily Show) but is just as often not (see Michael Moore's Canadian Bacon).
The plot of An American Carol is loosely based on the Dickens story. Filmmaker Michael Malone (modeled, obviously, after Michael Moore) is an American-hating lefty filmmaker whose distaste for all things American drives him to push to abolish the Fourth of July. (Just the first example of this movie's subtle, understated humor). Chris Farley, it must be said, doesn't do much with this role--he really isn't much better than the Moore lookalike in the semi-popular Internet video "Fellowship 9/11", which was shot on a much less substantial budget. "Malone" is a gold mine of laughs--he gets slapped a lot (sometimes trampled too), he's fat and loves to eat, and...that's all actually. And given that "Malone" is onscreen almost the entire length of the movie, that's really not a good sign.
The rest of the plot features some Islamic terrorists who want Moo-, I mean, "Malone", to direct an Islamic training video so that they can blow up Madison Square Garden during a Trace Adkins concert for the troops (a dastardly but complicated plan--I'm not sure what they needed Moore for), and there are some protests, and of course there are the three ghosts--President Kennedy (in the Marley role), George Washington, General Patton, and Trace Adkins (Trace Adkins?).
These plot threads are hopelessly tangled, and I'm not really sure what happens, and it doesn't matter anyway. I think the directors were shooting for a Pythonesque collection of sketches . They failed.
Some of the scenes are merely lame (example: the movie's three thousand--at least--fat jokes), others are cliched (is having kids swear still supposed to be shocking?), others are supposed to be "politically incorrect," but aren't. None are really funny, in part because Kelsey Grammar's character insists on explaining why each sketch is funny. (Yeah, it's a good thing too--I never could have figured out "Rosie O'Connell" by myself). An American Carol should have driven an agenda--not hit us over the head with it.
The movie's message is as simplistic and unsubtle as its humor. The primary theme of the film is that "Michael Moore is fat," but the secondary idea is that liberals are closeted America-haters who root for the terrorists. I don't like Michael Moore, in fact I loathe him more than any other American in public life (with the possible exception of Paris Hilton, who appears in this movie as herself), but this is unfair. I, and I think most other conservatives, prefer to think of liberals as misguided rather than knowingly destructive. This movie somehow made me feel a bit sympathetic towards Michael Moore.
One scene has attracted a great deal of controversy--Jon Voight's George Washington shows "Malone" Ground Zero as a reminder of what we're fighting for, a scene many thought was incredibly tasteless. Those people must not listen to country music--Toby Keith's biggest hit was a song about 9/11. This scene didn't work--it was far too serious given its context, and Ground Zero was represented with distractingly bad CGI, but it wasn't particularly offensive, at least to me.
My recommendation for this film would be to skip the theatrical release, and wait for the DVD. Then don't buy the DVD either, because this movie (to steal a line from Roger Ebert) sucks. It's not funny, it's not edgy, it's just bland, boring slapstick.
An American Carol is bad, but David Zucker deserves credit for his courage. Hollywood does not tolerate apostasy. His basic idea (for a conservative film) was a good one--it's just a pity that the movie was so incredibly bad. Eventually, there will be a good conservative comedy--but this isn't it.