Wow. I mean… Wow. Going into the DVD release of this notorious attempt at “conservative” humor, I was expecting something on the order of TEAM AMERICA: WORLD POLICE: some cheap shots at liberals, sure, but backed up with some good satire. There isn’t any reason why conservatives can’t be funny — P.J. O’Rourke and Chris Buckley (and, if you want to tangent over to Libertarianism, Trey Parker and Matt Stone) prove that all the time — and this after all is David Zucker, one of the minds behind AIRPLANE and THE NAKED GUN (and, okay, okay, SCARY MOVIES 3 & 4, which probably should have been warning signals). I hadn’t counted on how deeply Zucker had quaffed from the Kool-Aid.
The story — with many side-tracks — has a Michael Moore-like documentary-maker (Kevin Farley) enduring a midnight visitation by the ghost of John Kennedy (Chriss Anglin) and subsequent encounters with three spirits of red-blooded Americanism: George Patton (Kelsey Grammer), George Washington (Jon Voight), and Trace Adkins (uhhhh… yeah). The humor, as the shades try to coax the liberal from his errant ways, doesn’t stray far beyond angry-white-male grousings, and plays oddly like the McCain campaign during its final, desperate death-throes, including such talking points as negotiation is surrender, Iraq is central to the War on Terror, and, everyone’s favorite, Liberals Hate America. (Meanwhile, having Dennis Hopper as a Federal judge proclaim, “We’re defending the Ten Commandments!” demonstrates not only how low Zucker is willing to go to pander to the Christian right, but also how easy it is to declare yourself a patriot if you don’t know anything about the Constitution.)
My guess is that, unless you’re Sarah Palin or Michele Bachmann, your best bet at deriving humor out of AN AMERICAN CAROL is to listen to the audio commentary — where Zucker, Farley, and co-writer Lewis Friedman repeatedly natter on for a few minutes, then lapse into sullen silences as they behold the dog turd they’ve created. Otherwise, you can just enjoy the supreme irony that, with this film having been released theatrically a month before the 2008 election, it had exactly the same effect on the outcome as FAHRENHEIT 9/11 did in 2004. Take that, Michael Moore!
AN AMERICAN CAROL (Vivendi, 2008; 83 mins.) Directed by David Zucker. Cast: Kevin Farley, Kelsey Grammer, Jon Voight, Dennis Hopper.