In a just world, the words “From the makers of Airplane!” should be enough to guarantee a blockbuster. Whether An American Carol – which opened nationwide this last weekend – will do as well financially as it deserves remains to be seen, but it is a success, not only as a comedy, but on a more fundamental level. An American Carol is an existential triumph: it is the first Hollywood film to receive nationwide distribution while combining hilarity, star power, high production values, and a pronounced conservative message.
This film is thoughtcrime. By rights, it should not exist, and a decade ago could never have been made. Yet it keeps the laughs rolling while enlisting some of the industry’s biggest talents to expose every pseudo-intellectual pillar of Hollywood wisdom about the War on Terror – Samizdat with a smile. It should be celebrated on those grounds alone.
The plot revolves around a retelling of the Scrooge story, this time on Independence Day. A leftist documentary filmmaker named Michael Malone (Kevin Farley) plots, with MoveAlong.org, to abolish the Fourth of July. Soon, he is visited by three spirits who show him what the world would be like if the United States had never waged war. While hostile critics will call it an apology for warmongering, it cannot be stereotyped with such a simplistic, not to mention inhuman, message. One film soldier tells protestors he, too, opposes war, but it is sometimes inevitable. The film’s true message is that there is evil in the world, and it must be opposed by moral good backed by might.
This moral clarity, grounded in the Judeo-Christian ethic, may alone explain why such movies are never made in Hollywood.
However, the real attraction is not the message but the jokes. The trailer does not do the film justice. Producer David Zucker did the audience a favor by not making a conservative film with jokes but a comedy that happens to be conservative. Suicide bombers as a whole are made the object of scorn. One of the terror leaders remarks, “It is getting harder and harder to find suicide bombers, and all the really good ones are gone.” Muslim sexual morés also take a grazing hit. The al-Qaeda recruiting video, done in the style of 1950s and ‘60s educational film strips, is not to be missed. By far the funniest moment is the screening of Rosie O’Connell’s documentary about radical Christians, which makes reference to an Episcopalian suicide bomber.
As in his other films, the jokes come fast and furious and rarely miss their mark. The musical number taking on radical professors is “funny because it’s true.” Zucker is not afraid to break the fourth wall with appropriate moderation. In its one scene depicting the Munich agreement, An American Carol more effectively mocks Hitler than The Producers after two hours’ buildup. And the closing sequence at the naval docks is the equal of The Naked Gun.
The film’s other rapid-fire laughs target:
· Illegal immigration (“We need the guest worker program, so the Mexicans will do the job the Taliban won’t.”);
· Michael Moore’s hygiene (But how could one miss that target?);
· Elite disdain for middle America, especially country music;
· The personal frustrations and rejections that fuel many leftists’ political views. (Malone only endorses violence against terrorists who mocked him personally);
· American students’ ignorance of history;
· Antiwar demonstrators’ signs and chanting;
· The insignificance of documentaries;
· Leftists’ personal indulgence and philanthropic penury;
· The fact that every aspect of the War on Terror has been filmed from an anti-American perspective;
· The rivalry of the branches of service;
· The Tinsel Town definition of “courage” as
spouting the party line;
· The financing of motion pictures; and
· The Progressives’ claim of ownership of JFK.
The comedy is uplifted by first class comedic performances. Kevin Farley’s portrayal of Malone could have easily degenerated into farce or camp, as have many in films made by Zucker’s imitators. Part of the Zucker-Abrams-Zucker genius is having actors play their parts as straight drama, delivering lines like “Joey, have you ever been in a Turkish prison?” in earnest. Similar flashes come through as Malone tells the press, “Look, I love America – that’s why it needs to be destroyed.” Farley finds the reality in his character more persuasively than Will Ferrell, whose entertaining performances always have an air of winking goofiness.
In a similar vein, Bill O’Reilly gives a fine performance as himself. This has not always been the case with journalists in film. Many others have come across as bad actors trying to play journalists. They seem intent on impersonating themselves, as though on film all their lines must be spoken 20 percent LOUDER and slo-o-o-wer. (See Ivan Reitman’s 1993 film Dave for a few such examples.) O’Reilly succeeds where others have failed.
The “name” celebrities do not disappoint. Kelsey Grammer seamlessly combines steel, easy comedic banter, and resignation in his portrayal of Patton. Jon Voight sounds a sober note as George Washington. James Woods, one of America’s most underrated actors – who tipped off investigators about a dry run for 9/11 – plays another kind of agent with all the warmth and humanity the profession merits. Kevin Sorbo entertains as a George Clooney wannabe. Dennis Hopper gives a too-short cameo as a judge fighting ACLU zombies (in which Patton observes, “They’re not people; they’re the ACLU!”). Robert Davi turns in another pitch-perfect performance as public enemy number one. Country music star Trace Adkins soothes a cool charisma. And Paris Hilton’s participation in this film was a much better choice than the other video she’s known for.
This uproarious comedy makes some serious points, as well. When Malone gets into trouble, it is U.S. soldiers who save him – because that’s what they do. Thus, General David Petraeus defended MoveOn.org when it branded him “General Betray Us.” It is only their service that allows the bloggers to rage as they do. Red State Americans are much friendlier to their political opponents than Blue Staters. The nod Carol pays to the role of religion in American life is – this is probably the only review to use this word in conjunction with any part of this film – subtle.
As a comedy, it reaches two pitches of emotional intensity. In a 15-second sequence depicting U.S. soldiers under Taliban fire in Afghanistan, one sees the bravery and nobility of America’s fighting men. (The moment is broken as Malone shouts, “They’re using real bullets!”) Again at the end of the film, the collective sacrifice of American veterans from the Revolution to the present is shown in one grand historical sweep.
Not bad for a genre often dominated by fart jokes.
An American Carol is so unique it had to be privately financed. Producer, director, and co-writer David Zucker is also an unlikely source of this kind of film. Although he has dabbled in political satire since 1977’s Kentucky Fried Movie, his politics are not right-wing extremism; he took shots at Ronald Reagan and Gerald Ford in Airplane! An ardent environmentalist whose home runs on solar energy, Zucker calls himself “a JFK Democrat” and cites laughter as his aim in making the film. “I’m not a crusader,” he demures.
The film, as with his switch in parties, was born on September 11, 2001. He recalled, “I saw the reactions of both parties to 9/11. One party was [saying], ‘How is this our fault? How are we to blame for this?’ The other party [said], ‘Let’s kick their ass. These are our enemies, and they are evil.’”
Perhaps this points to the movie’s most politically consequential motif: it fittingly depicts, in a comic format, how the radical Left has moved into the mainstream of the Democratic Party. In the film, Malone introduces former president Jimmy Carter at a MoveAlong.org rally, just as Michael Moore shared the real-life Carter’s box at the 2004 Democratic National Convention, and as Al Gore made his post-9/11 political rebound bellowing red-faced rants at MoveOn.org rallies. For making this point, this author has himself been parodied (but not nearly as well as this ensemble does the Left).
The film is something of a comedic version of Party of Defeat, the new book David Horowitz and I wrote about the Democratic Party’s foreign policy before and after 9/11. In a quick but well-documented read, we demonstrate how the Hate America Left An American Carol thrashes have inflicted damage upon American foreign interests, U.S. soldiers, and our Homeland Security that are anything but funny.
Some may be offended by two children who curse in the film on a total of four occasions. Most Americans, of whatever political persuasion, will be entertained. All should appreciate the intellectual rogues who dared to make a film that exposes the Left for what it is – and their sense of humor in making such a film a joy to watch.
An American Carol opens in theaters nationwide this weekend.