AN AMERICAN CAROL
*** (out of 5)
October 3, 2008
Kevin Farley as MICHAEL MALONE
Kelsey Grammer as PATTON
Trace Adkins as THE ANGEL OF DEATH
Robert Davi as AZIZ
Leslie Nielsen as GRANDPA
Studio: Vivendi Pictures
Directed by: David Zucker
BY KEVIN CARR
Let me start by saying that I’m not a big fan of message movies. I don’t care if I agree with the message or not. Generally, I’ve found that when a movie has been made for a reason beyond basic entertainment, the story and quality of the movie often suffers in light of whatever cause or message is driving the film.
Still, I was rather curious to see “An American Carol.” The movie isn’t making news because it’s skewering Michael Moore. Heck, ever since “Fahrenheit 9/11” made it big at the box office, conservative and moderate filmmakers have had the guy in their crosshairs.
The reason “An American Carol” is making news is because it is a rare film made by a conservative director/writer (former liberal David Zucker) that features some relatively prominent names in it, including known conservatives like John Voight. Because Hollywood is famous for leaning far to the left, it’s neat to see a movie from another point of view be made.
Still, the movie has a message, and that message gets in the way of the comedy at least half of the time.
“An American Carol” is a tongue-in-cheek butchering of “A Christmas Carol” about uber-liberal and anti-American filmmakers Michael Malone (Kevin Farley). This famous documentarian has taken on the cause of abolishing the Fourth of July. However, one night, he is visited by the ghost of his idol, John Kennedy, with a message that patriotism and the American military are actually good things.
Over the years, I have thoroughly enjoyed David Zucker’s films. He is one of the original spoofers, dating back to “The Kentucky Fried Movie.” With the exception of his awful “My Boss’s Daughter,” his movies have set the gold standard for spoof and comedy films that hacks like Aaron Seltzer and Jason Friedberg have destroyed.
However, Zucker lets his politics (with which I agree, by the way) keep him from making a great film. There are plenty of issues beyond simple American patriotism that are brought to light. Some of them – like the indoctrination of students at American university by former hippie socialists – are presented in a hilarious way. Others – like the ACLU’s strangle hold on the American court system – are handled a lot more sloppily.
While I laughed quite a bit at “An American Carol” and felt a certain amount of joy that a film that resonated with my political beliefs was finally given a wide release, there were too many stumbling blocks to make it a break-out hit.
In some ways, it seemed like Zucker’s writing team was mandating issues and items in the liberal agenda to be satirized rather than allowing a funny story to emerge. Other times, the film was a bit too cautious, as if it didn’t want to offend the more offendable sort that reside on the right side of the aisle. Think of it as the guys from “South Park” doing a satire film with the Christian Coalition breathing down their neck. They just wouldn’t be allowed to breathe and make as good of a film as they could.
As conservative issue movies go, “An American Carol” works and comes across far more professional that garbage like “The Omega Code” or “Executive Power.”
I just hope that Hollywood lets David Zucker make another movie for entertainment purposes only.