Directed by: David Zucker (Scary Movie 4)
Starring: Kevin Farley, Kelsey Grammer, Jon Voight, Dennis Hopper, Trace Adkins
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.