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Movie review: 'An American Carol' — 1 of 5 stars
One hundred and sixty-five years after Charles Dickens called for civic reform, compassion, humanity and charity to be watchwords in human life with A Christmas Carol, Hollywood's most rabid conservatives have rallied to make An American Carol, a comedy that equates dissent with "treason," that presents Bill O'Reilly as a model of political restraint and offers us Kelsey Grammer as the ghost of General George S. Patton.
Yeah, when I think "Blood and Guts," I think Frasier.
David Zucker, late of the Airplane and The Naked Gun movies, a fellow who hasn't been funny in roughly 165 years, trots out that Canadian fossil Leslie Nielsen as a grandpa telling a tale about a Michael Moore-like "Scrooge" who wanted to ban the Fourth of July holiday. A liberal who "hates America"-- and is, by the way, "fat" -- is visited by the ghosts of John F. Kennedy, Patton, George Washington ( Jon Voight) and the Angel of Death (Trace Adkins, who's no Toby Keith), sees the error of his ways and promises to always keep the Fourth, forever more.
Well, God bless us, every one, Mr. Zucker! Pity those crippled kids in the movie can't get good health care or stem cell research because those aren't conservative values, but I digress.
It's a polemic, a screed, a combination comic rant and sentimental flag-waver that doesn't work as either. Start with the casting of Chris Farley's singularly unfunny brother Kevin as Michael Malone. Yeah, he looks like Michael Moore. But you'll be making your own "The wrong Farley.. .. ." jokes, and you can finish that thought.
Too mean? How about shooting ACLU lawyers, "zombies" waiving their writs trying to protect "privacy" in the face of the ongoing terrorist threat? Or labeling Hitler a liberal? Uh, Dave, seriously, check the tailpipe on your Mercedes. Fumes must be getting into the passenger compartment. Hitler was a racist, anti-Semite, uniform-loving, flag-waving fascist, a k a an ultra-ultra-conservative.
The movie's basic thesis, that some folks don't think there's any such thing as a "just war," is as absurd as it gets. Except that isn't as absurd as it gets. The movie's history is as distorted as its classic straw-man propaganda. What's a straw man? That's when you set up an argument that you claim the other side is making, one made of straw that's easy for you to knock down.
Like a blind monkey, the joke-o-matic Zucker uses here lands the odd giggle -- about country music, Scientology, documentaries (not "real" movies) and those silly, silly Islamic terrorists. Here, they're led by Robert Davi and a very bad hairpiece, conspiring to wreak some fresh havoc on an America too busy protecting its civil liberties to remember we're at war.
Malone, maker of such documentary hits as Die You American Pigs, who so wants to direct a fiction feature (Fascist America), visits a South where no Civil War freed the slaves (from their conservative masters, BTW), a pandering Neville Chamberlain listening to Hitler sing "Kumbaya" and speaks to rallies of college kids and movealong.org protesters who chant "Peace now, we don't care how" and such.
Most cringe-worthy, he hears the Yankee-accented Washington lecture him about "freedom of speech, which you abuse." And he endures lots of fat jokes and small children calling him obscene names. Funny.
It's a mean little red-meat mess of a movie, pandering of the most cynical kind. Zucker, who converted his own politics in 2004, is playing to the suckers in a grand faux redneck tradition. He gets most everything wrong, but no matter. The rubes who eat this garbage up won't know.
But here's a tip. George Washington may have owned slaves and been overly fond of his uniform, but he was nobody's idea of a conservative or a chest-thumper for war. We had conservatives in America in 1776. We called them then what they still call conservatives in Britain: Tories. Only after being on the wrong side of change and history in 1782, most of our Tories packed up and moved to Canada.
Give it some thought, Mr. Zucker. And take that pansy Grammer with you.