Conservatives score a few political points but aren’t very funny in “An American Carol,” a cheesy spitball directed at the very large target of a Michael Moore-like filmmaker. Poorly made indie production has a script that feels like a list of ripostes collected over the last several years to liberal criticisms of the U.S.: The whole enterprise feels far more agenda- than entertainment-driven. Talkradio and grassroots marketing have been trying to rally the B.O. troops, but the pic’s opening-weekend take of $3.8 million shows that the target audience is more likely to check this out when it takes over Wal-Mart shelves. Those with a real craving for hilariously potent anti-left propaganda will have to go back for another toke of “Team America: World Police.”
The film’s very existence is being positioned as a bold exception to Hollywood’s much-discussed liberal bent. But this collection of scattered potshots won’t make the filmmakers’ ideological adversaries lose any sleep, as it’s too feeble in everything but its political convictions to register significantly on the public’s radar.
Would-be hilarious setup has some Afghani Taliban types, dismayed at the ineffectiveness of their recruiting videos, deciding to hire a “real Hollywood director” to pump up their efforts. “It shouldn’t be hard,” one insists, “they all hate America.” The one they select is Michael Malone (Kevin Farley), a fat, egomaniacal slob with a baseball cap who’s leading a campaign to abolish the July 4th holiday while trying to make the jump from documentaries to dramatic features with his script “Fascist America.”
As the embarrassingly bumbling terrorists plot to use Malone for their own ends, the scruffy man himself, in a lift from Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol,” is visited by eminent Americans who endeavor to make him see the error of his pacifist ways. First, JFK (Chriss Anglin) steps out of his inauguration newsreel to tell Malone, “You must redeem yourself!,” and to recognize the need to be prepared to face any foe.
Then Gen. George Patton (Kelsey Grammer) materializes to slap Malone around a bit before taking him to Munich 1939, where he watches Neville Chamberlain shining Hitler’s shoes while the fuehrer, Mussolini and Tojo sing “Kumbaya.” Brief sketches also reveal to the filmmaker how Southern blacks would still be enslaved had not Lincoln taken up arms, why Malone came to hate the military — his youthful sweetheart left him for a soldier — and how zombies (in the form of ACLU lawyers) have to be mowed down before they completely overwhelm the court system. George Washington (Jon Voight, who on the evidence could plausibly play the first president in a serious manner) then lectures Malone on freedom before the doors of New York’s St. Paul’s Chapel to reveal the ruins of 9/11.
Oddly, the dialogue contains more zingers about the lowliness of the life form known as documentary filmmaker than anything else. A mock propaganda film makes lively fun of Rosie O’Donnell’s equating Christian fundamentalists with Islamic terrorists and, given the parallel with Dickens, the intended audience will know it can look forward to a contrite apology and conversion at the end from the wayward Malone.
But the irreverence, wit and invention director David Zucker displayed in most of his earlier comedies are largely MIA. Comic timing is lacking, and unattractive pic has a slapdash, low-budget, backlot feel. Film proper runs just 78 minutes, with six minutes of end credits.
As a number of eminent filmmakers have demonstrated, conservatives can do a lot better than this.