Conservative author and political commentator Dinesh D’Souza attempts to distill and expand upon the theories, investigations and accusations in his bestselling tome “The Roots of Obama’s Rage” with the somewhat less inflammatorily titled “2016: Obama’s America.” The slickly produced and aggressively provocative docu conceivably could turn a tidy profit through limited theatrical runs and in various homescreen platforms by passionately preaching to the converted.
Co-directed and co-scripted by D’Souza and producer John Sullivan (“Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed”), “2016” employs a brisk montage of snappy visuals, re-enactments, talking-head interviews and first-person commentary to render President Obama as a clear and present danger whose socialist governing philosophy has been indelibly colored by radical influences ranging from his African-born father (a rabid anti-colonialist) to the notorious Rev. Jeremiah Wright.
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For the bulk of its running time, the pic comes off as a cavalcade of conspiracy theories, psycho-politico conjectures and incendiary labeling — “breathtakingly anti-America” is only one of the epithets tossed about like so much confetti — as D’Souza and assorted interviewees question Obama’s patriotism, deny his support of Israel, decry his Big Government programs, and generally recycle claims, charges and dire warnings D’Souza (and others) have previously promulgated in books, lectures, op-ed screeds and various Fox News guest appearances.
To his credit, D’Souza pointedly avoids the extremes of birther fanatics — early on, he announces Obama was born in Honolulu, and that’s that.
And while it’s highly unlikely that anyone predisposed to championing Obama would be won over by the sound and fury here, there’s no gainsaying the value of “2016” as a sort of Cliffs Notes precis of the conservative case against the re-election of our current U.S. president (whose second term, it should be noted, actually would end in January 2017).
Among the interviewees, conservative Shelby Steele — who is, like Obama, the product of a mixed-race marriage — stands out by sounding, if not entirely convincing, then intelligently plausible as he postulates that many white Americans voted for Obama in 2008 primarily to prove to themselves that they weren’t racist. It’s one of the few propositions espoused in the pic that even Obama supporters might be willing to chew over as food for thought. On the other hand, perhaps it should be taken with a grain of salt: Steele — author of a 2007 book titled “A Bound Man: Why We Are Excited About Obama and Why He Can’t Win — gives short shrift to the equally credible scenario that many other whites didn’t vote for Obama primarily because of his color.
The deft editing and overall technical polish — as well as a generous travel budget — go a long way toward making the pic an attention-grabber. During one-on-one interviews, however, D’Souza occasionally undermines the seriousness of his intent by including reaction shots of himself responding with overly vigorous nods of agreement, which have the rather unfortunate effect of recalling comic shtick common to segments of “The Daily Show.”