A sarcastically toned, strategically timed character assassination, comic documaker Nick Broomfield’s “Sarah Palin — You Betcha!” shovels enough dirt on the Tea Party guru and self-described hockey mom to satisfy her haters, but lacks sufficient humor and insight to make it a must-see for anyone outside the Brit muckraker’s fan base. Revelations remain mostly on the level of an interviewed Alaskan blogger’s pseudo-scoop that an allegedly depressed Palin soothed the pain of losing the 2008 vice presidential race by watching wedding shows in bed while scarfing down fast-food tacos. The Freestyle Releasing pickup won’t outgross its politically opposite number, “The Undefeated.”
Failing, perhaps on purpose, to land an interview with the press-shy Palin herself, Broomfield (who co-directed the pic with longtime collaborator Joan Churchill) makes do with a bevy of quirkily incensed folks from the subject’s hometown of Wasilla, delivering yet another implicit critique of authorized celebrity docus that surrender their journalistic cred upon securing the celeb’s participation. This is the filmmaker’s key subject, best explored a dozen-odd years ago in the aptly grungy “Kurt and Courtney.” But “You Betcha!” suggests the subject is wearing thin, along with Broomfield’s trademark haughty narration and “Who, me?” on-camera demeanor.
Improbably outfitted in a plaid flannel jacket and goofy winter hat, Broomfield braves Wasilla’s ice and snow in search of the real story of the “hottest governor of the coldest state,” or at least a few cheap jokes. When a local tour guide reveals Palin’s childhood home is now a thrift store, the likes of which the former beauty queen still visits on occasion, Broomfield quips, “I thought she shopped at Barney’s.”
Basically shooting fish in a barrel, Broomfield begins by locating Palin’s dad, Chuck Heath, a former science teacher and current lover of deer antlers. Heath warmly grants a ho-hum interview in the kitchen of his house but soon turns cold, inspiring the investigative journalist to buy a set of antlers from Heath in hopes of thawing the ice.
Subsequent talking heads flesh out the docu’s hasty sketch of Palin as a sociopathic, dim-witted and ruthless careerist who, Broomfield argues, frequently lies in public and always turns on those closest to her. A Wasilla pastor labels the hometown girl an “apocalyptic” Christian who wouldn’t hesitate to launch a nuclear war on evil. An opportunistic agent repping Palin’s put-upon ex-son-in-law promises tasty dish on “drugs and stuff,” but balks at Broomfield’s offer of 500 clams. Most indicting of all, perhaps, is a childhood friend’s myth-cracking observation that Palin, nicknamed “Barracuda” for her basketball-shooting prowess, was really more of a dribbler.
Clearly, the intermittently amusing pic is intended to intervene in Palin’s presumed presidential bid, leaning on charges of anti-intellectualism and homophobia that could be gleaned from a cursory read of Palin’s own bestselling tell-all, “Going Rogue.” Bumrushed by Broomfield at a pair of book signings, Palin answers the documentarian’s interview request with a chirpy “I betcha I could do that!” But the sitdown never comes to pass, allowing Broomfield to feign outrage and justify a feature-length form of retaliation that gives him more in common with his allegedly vengeful subject than he may care to admit.
Besides its bevy of pixilated YouTube clips and decades-old local news reports sourced from VHS, all evincing Palin’s ignorance on some level or another, “You Betcha!” includes Kilifax’s snotty tune “Sarah Palin” and ends with the legendary audio clip of the pol getting phone-pranked by a man absurdly impersonating Nicolas Sarkozy. A smallscreen thriller-style musical score pumps up the volume of Broomfield’s ridicule to mildly enjoyable effect. Other tech credits are unremarkable but adequate.