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American Carol

1 rating: 1.0
A movie directed by David Zucker

Director David Zucker (AIRPLANE, NAKED GUN) returns to the satire genre with AN AMERICAN CAROL. The political spoof stars Kevin Farley (brother of the late comedian Chris Farley) as Michael Malone, a left-wing documentary filmmaker with a strong likeness … see full wiki

Tags: Movies, Comedies
Cast: James Woods
Director: David Zucker
Release Date: 2008
MPAA Rating: PG-13
1 review about American Carol

Sweet Home America

  • Feb 9, 2009
Pros: Proves one can be funny and daring without offending more family-friendly folk

Cons: Bill O'Reilly makes a cameo

The Bottom Line: USA! USA! USA!

Now here's something you don't see every day - a patriotic Hollywood movie! I kid, I kid. An American Carol was never a theatrical feature movie, so I don't know anything about a Hollywood backstory. I don't know if it came from Hollywood or not. But I do know that An American Carol is a fun if very disjointed piece of spoofery from master parodist David Zucker. The schtick of An American Carol is the ten millionth or so remake of the classic Charles Dickens story A Christmas Carol with an American twist. It makes sense - after all, America was formed after kicking out the British, and we stole our language, national pastime, and national anthem from them. 

In An American Carol, no cows are sacred - except America. The movie is definitely made with an entertainment motive in mind, but there is a political slant to the right. The story is about a documentary filmmaker by the name of Michael Malone. The fact that he's a documentary filmmaker is a running joke in An American Carol, as people are constantly saying things like "but he makes documentaries! Who goes to see documentaries?" Malone hates Independence Day and has arranged a demonstration against it at a country music concert. He gets visited by three ghosts of the past, present, and future who try to make him see the good in America. They of course prevail and at the end, Malone starts making actual features about the good in America. 

I liked the ghosts who visit Malone. The introductory ghost is his hero, John F. Kennedy. The ghost of the past is General Patton, as portrayed by an out-of-place but funny Kelsy Grammer. The ghost of the present, believe it or not, is George Washington. No, I didn't mix those two up. The ghost of the future is a country music star. Patton takes Malone to a college campus anti-war demonstration at the outbreak of World War II. Washington shows up in New York City on September 11, 2001. The singer takes Malone to his hometown of Detroit to see what becomes of him after Detroit is nuked. 

As you watch An American Carol, the Christmas Carol plot is the one to keep in mind. This movie is 82 minutes long and that running time includes the end credits. Zucker makes the mistake of trying to cram too much into it during that timespan. The plot actually begins in Afghanistan where a group of terrorists talks about getting a filmmaker who hates America. They also seem to have a plan to blow up a bomb somewhere, but I lost this whole secondary plot in the mess. There's also the side plot about the anti-Fourth of July demonstration, which is fortunately shoved into the background so it makes he movie easier to follow. And Mike's nephew Josh is a Navy guy being deployed into the Persian Gulf. Got all that? That's in 82 minutes, folks.

An American Carol moves briskly, but it feels disjointed in many parts. At times you have to wonder what Zucker was thinking. There are scenes in which you can't tell if you're seeing another ghost sequence or if it's really happening to Michael. This doesn't have the stopping effect on the movie it usually would on other movies, though, but that's only because it's a screwball/slapstick comedy. It helps that many of these disjointed sequences are hilarious. In one of them, Patton and a judge played to maniacal perfection by Dennis Hopper shoot a bunch of zombies. In another, a stage group in a college breaks into a song-and-dance sequence. The song is about how American college students are taught to hate America. 

The political tone of the movie is very lightweight. It does exist, and it does slant to the right. But the movie doesn't point fingers at liberals or conservatives and say "those are the true America-hating terrorists!" Instead of liberals and conservatives, An American Carol makes the smart move of avoiding political tagging and just divides its sides between pro-Americans and anti-Americans. Malone is loudmouthed and boorish and clearly based on Michael Moore (as if you couldn't tell that from his name). But for all his faults, I've never seen the real Michael Moore raise attacks against America itself or say he wants it wiped out. Malone actually does this. He also makes an appearance on Bill O'Reilly's show with an even louder mouth named Rosie O'Connell, who is an endless geyser of boneheaded conspiracy theories. (She even quotes Rosie O'Donnell's nutjob saying about fire melting steel exactly.) Punctuating the pro-American/anti-American tone is the fact that Bill O'Reilly plays himself.

If anything, David Zucker can be accused of making fun of the extreme politics which cropped up during the Bush administration. He goes for laughs at the expense of everyone. Again, if An American Carol has politics, the good guys would be right of center. But anyone and everyone is open for a skewing. And the best part is that many of the gags are incredibly inspired - in the future, Michael Malone visits a Hollywood which has morphed into a paradise for Muslim extremists. There is a billboard there advertising burqas from Victoria's Secret! There are a few standard jokes like characters always slapping Malone (Bill O'Reilly remarking on his smack at Malone: "I just like to hit you.") But for the most part, the jokes are daring, politically incorrect, and very, VERY hilarious.

As satire, An American Carol actually works better than one would think. Especially for a straight-to-DVD release. There is a brilliant attack on college academics in which the point of students being taught to hate everything about their country is made. When John F. Kennedy is shown making his famous speech about doing something for your country, John himself tells Malone to listen to the whole speech, then we see a clip in which he vows to do anything to advance the cause of liberty. The And wait until you hear the groups Malone is getting support from in his protest! While the satire is blurred by Zucker's refusal to name names, a lot of it is still clever.

I watched An American Carol expecting a quick, dumb laugh. But this movie was a shocker. It may be a complete mess of a movie, but it makes up for its disjointedness with its cleverness. It's funny and inspired and rarely resorts to low denominators to make you laugh. Yet, it's also very daring. To be daring and yet family friendly these days is an incredible trick. And David Zucker is able to do it. He makes you laugh without offending any of your senses and gives you a heartwarming pro-America story at the same time. It's dragged down by its messiness, that can't be argued. But if you're tired watching comedies which are only considered daring or edgy because of how many bad sex jokes, bathroom jokes, or swear words they contain, An American Carol is certainly worth a rental.


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