Review

An American Carol

By Sean Burns
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 8 | Posted Oct. 8, 2008

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Patriot games: Kevin Farley (left) and Dennis Hopper mock Michael Moore in An American Carol.

A desperate, defensive straw-man argument posing as a movie, David Zucker's god-awful An American Carol has become something of a cause c�l�bre for the ever-aggrieved right wing. Purporting to be a War-on-Terror satire, it's far more fixated on the culture wars at home, spinning itself in circles as a modern-day Scrooge saga--if Charles Dickens were a regular caller on the Laura Ingraham Show.

This is the tale of bloviating, morbidly obsese Michael Malone (Kevin Farley, Chris' brother) who wins countless Moovealong.org Movie Awards for blasphemous documentaries like Die You American Pigs. When he attempts to ban the Fourth of July, he's visited by noble ghosts like Chriss Anglin's JFK, Jon Voight's George Washington, Kelsey Grammer's George S. Patton and country singer Trace Adkins' Angel of Death.

 

 

Here is a movie tasteless enough to feature Voight's Washington and Farley's empty-headed muckracker at the still-smoldering ruins of Ground Zero. While adrift and despondent in the ashes of senselessly murdered civilians, our pacifist filmmaker must at last relent, admitting that war really is the answer ... and he also learns to love shitty modern country music.

Lord knows, Michael Moore had something like this coming. But despite barn-sized targets like Moore's perpetual, galling mendacity and monolithic egomania, Zucker mocks him for being fat.

It's extremely lazy comedy. Farley is seldom seen without a Big Gulp in hand, shoveling junk food into his mouth. (How passe a target is Michael Moore, anyway? Nobody takes him seriously anymore; the guy had to give his latest flick away for free on the Internet. I kept waiting for Zucker to goof on more cutting-edge targets, like John Kerry speaking French, or maybe that new dance craze called the Macarena.)

An American Carol's most telling set-piece finds the ACLU depicted as drooling, gray-skinned zombies, clutching pesky Constitutional law papers while they swarm Judge Dennis Hopper's courtroom en masse, attempting to rip the Ten Commandments from the courthouse wall. They're met by brain-splattering, righteous blasts of shotgun fire from our heavenly visitors.

And that's what's most unsettling about Zucker's attempted farce: its disturbing reliance on physical brutality for shits and giggles. Kevin Farley is routinely punched, beaten and trampled--often to the rapturous applause of an afternoon crowd at the matinee I attended.

Even guest star Bill O'Reilly gets in on the action, pounding the crap out of Farley's character in a cramped men's room. "I just enjoy slapping you," O'Reilly confesses, offering a creepy wink to the camera and inviting us all to wonder how many more sinister bathroom stall fantasies regarding Michael Moore ended up on the cutting-room floor.

The American Civil Liberties Union takes it on the chin again later, as their zombies interrupt illegal police searches of New York City subway passengers. "Thank Allah for the ACLU," one of the movie's countless Arab suicide bombers cries, shortly before meeting his eternal award at the hands of Patton's elephant gun.

"Enjoy your Fourth Amendment Right to Privacy ... in hell!" Grammer bellows, blowing him to bits and earning an ovation from my screening audience. I never imagined I'd be surrounded by so many self-described "patriots" so actively jeering our fundamental Constitutional protections.

But there's the rub. Zucker's film reeks of a deeply insecure psychosis, one that's often insultingly mislabeled as patriotism. In actuality, true patriotism requires a working knowledge of your country's history and a willingness to hold leaders accountable when they fail to live up to the ideals set forth by the Founding Fathers. It's hard work.

What's much easier, and what we sadly see far too much of these days, is more like pea-brained nationalism; a foot-stomping tantrum of blind, proudly ignorant allegiance- assuming moral superiority, simply because you were lucky enough to have been born in the right place at the right time.

This weird, modern talking-point jujitsu is how An American Carol gets away with wrapping itself in red, white and blue outraged "patriotic" sanctimony, while simultaneously ridiculing our Bill of Rights.

Watching the film's maudlin, flag-waving, country-music fueled finale, one must finally ask: Who exactly are the zombies?

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COMMENTS

Comments 1 - 8 of 8
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1. Kate said... on Oct 7, 2008 at 11:51PM

“brilliance. for real.”

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2. matt said... on Oct 21, 2008 at 07:04AM

“James Woods is in this?? Please God NO!!!!”

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3. Jhamm said... on Nov 3, 2008 at 04:15PM

“Beautiful! Couldn't have said it better myself. ”

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4. HyperInfluential said... on Nov 13, 2008 at 06:27AM

“Well, you can rest easy that the zombies turned out not to be the "moral majority" of America after all, as evidenced by this film's 11% rating at www.rottentomatoes.com. Clearly, America has finally rejected this kind of Orwellian nonsense in favor of hope, change, and the facts. I strongly disagree, however, with the statement that Michael Moore is, or ought to be, irrelevant, or that he is mendacious, a fancy word for "lying." Mr. Moore works tirelessly on behalf of those less fortunate than himself, helping them fight against overwhelmingly powerful global corporations to get justice and ease their terrible suffering. Fighting for the meek against the powerful can never become irrelevant, it's always deserving of honor. ”

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5. Jhamm said... on Nov 13, 2008 at 06:27AM

“Well, you can rest easy that the zombies turned out not to be the "moral majority" of America after all, as evidenced by this film's 11% rating at www.rottentomatoes.com. Clearly, America has finally rejected this kind of Orwellian nonsense in favor of hope, change, and the facts. I strongly disagree, however, with the statement that Michael Moore is, or ought to be, irrelevant, or that he is mendacious, a fancy word for "lying." Mr. Moore works tirelessly on behalf of those less fortunate than himself, helping them fight against overwhelmingly powerful global corporations to get justice and ease their terrible suffering. Fighting for the meek against the powerful can never become irrelevant, it's always deserving of honor.”

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6. IGH said... on Jan 5, 2009 at 08:10PM

“sounds like you have personal problems. I'd suggest you stop watching such comedies, you treat them way too seriously. lol what an idiot. ”

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7. petey said... on Dec 20, 2009 at 06:10AM

“Jhamm, Michael Moore always distorts the facts to suit his cause. It's ironic that you talk about "facts" as you have. Mr. Moore has done absolutely NO good for the disadvantaged. He takes potshots at authority figures and makes millions. What good does that do anyone? He's predictable, misleading, and, now, quite rich from peddling his brand of mendacity.”

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8. Ken said... on Dec 21, 2009 at 08:49PM

“Petey, Michael Moore does indeed pick and choose his facts to "suit his cause": he does not always aim for objectivity, but usually for truth in the service of making the world a better place. He does try to influence the emotions of his viewers, but for good purpose.

A good example of this would be "Sicko," which shows U.S. audiences that free and/or affordable health care has been attained rationally and ethically in countries other than the U.S.A. This film has enriched and clarified the discourse(s) in this country, and while Moore is not a dispassionate and objective voice and eye, he certainly is a clearly an ethical and hard-working one who has done a lot of "good" in the service of humanity. I wish him well.

Peace, Read Good Books, and also great magazines like The Nation (thenation.com) :)”

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