American Carol, An (2008)

Rated: PG-13 for rude and irreverent content, and for language and brief drug material.
Grade: C+C-B+D=C-
Length: 83 minutes
Budget: $20 million
Box Office: $6 million so far (6 US, 0 Intl, 0 DVD)

Written and Directed by: David Zucker, who directed Scary Movies 3 and 4 and wrote and directed Baseketball, the Naked Gun series, Top Secret, and Airplane.
Starring: Trace Adkins, Kevin Farley, Kelsey Grammer, Bill O’Reilly, Dennis Hopper, John Voight, Leslie Nielsen, James Woods, Gary Coleman.

In this spoof (did I give away too much?) of the Christmas Carol concept, Michael Moore gets a visit from the angel of death, who intends to show him the reality of America and the world and jar him into repenting for his anti-American filmmaking and his plan to stage a massive protest rally against the 4th of July.

Entertainment Value: C+
I laughed many times, but the problem here is that this is much more like the Scary Movie series than it is like the Naked Gun series. Also, it has the feel of something thrown together in time to release before the election rather than something nurtured to perfection over the normal process of refinement that any good satire should be. Nonetheless, I want to repeat that I laughed a lot.

Superficial Content: C-
Drugs/Alcohol A, Sex/Nudity C, Violence C, Language D, Illegal Activity C
Once again, we have a movie that is properly PG-13 but feels a lot worse due to the overall crudeness and vulgarity of it. One thing I particularly disliked was the use of so much profanity the young (grade-school age) children in the movie. That’s a bad example as well as disturbing. Think South Park. And there’s lots of violence in the bits about terrorism and suicide bombers. The sex is more in the form of references than anything else, although there is one fairly unpleasant scene of a cavity search at the airport. Definitely not a movie for kids.

Significant Content: B+ America is decent. Christians are not like Islamofascists. The ACLU are mindless zombies. Colleges are indoctrination centers. War is often necessary as a force for good. Modern liberals are betraying the ideals of their own heroes like JFK.

Artistic/Thought Value: D Contrived, hackneyed, and obnoxious while missing the elegance and polish that a real satire could have achieved. The problem here was not the quality of ideas, but the quality of presentation, and the poor quality of presentation winds up reflecting badly on the quality of ideas. I doubt this movie will make anyone change their minds or cause them to rethink their views, which means that it fails precisely where Michael Moore’s films (as bad as they usually are) at least have a chance at succeeding. Political conservatives who enjoy vulgar humor will love this. I’m not sure anyone else will.

Discussion Questions:
~Do you think this movie is likely to appeal to people who don’t already share its worldview?
~Is there a contradiction between the political conservatism being advocated here and the vulgarity with which it’s being advocated? Is Zucker trying to mix things here that don’t really mix? Can a pro-American film be simultaneously not family-friendly?
~Do you think this film was released at this time intentionally to influence the election? Does that bother you? Do you think this rushed production and made it a worse movie? What do you think of the release of political movies close to elections in general?
~What would Michael Moore think of this movie if he saw it? Rosie O’Donnell? The ACLU? College liberal students or professors? If the target were to persuade any of these people, how would you change it to accomplish that?
~Would you consider this negative advertising? Is it beneath conservatives or contrary to our ideals to make a film like this? How effective is satire in general? Does it do more to persuade the opposition or to make those who agree with you disrespect those people?
~Why did the makers of this film change the names of the people being satirized, even though it’s obvious which people they are?
~Do you think it’s possible that Michael Moore is a conservative plant acting like such a bad guy the way pro wrestlers do just to generate news and opposition? If he were, is he doing a good thing or not on net?
Overall Grade: C-
It has its moments, but this is surely no masterpiece, either of political satire or of jokesmanship.

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