Sunday, October 05, 2008

Movie Review: An American Carol

There's been maybe one person who managed to make propaganda funny, and that was Walt Disney, in Der Fuehrer's Face.

After that, face it: propaganda is what it is: it's a humorless rant for your side against the other side. Alas, for every nearly humorless conservative propaganda piece there are about ten liberal ones. Regardless, An American Carol is more pedantic than funny. The big studios could have let it flop on its own merits (or lack thereof). Instead, they made the mistake of refusing to market the film, thereby giving the conservative base a chance to push the film via underground marketing.

But I digress. What is this film about? Imagine that a Michael Moore-type Hollywood director experiences a series of Christmas Carol visits from patriotic spirits who try to show him the error of his ways as he tries to ban Independence Day. Now here's the problem I had with the film: I really like David Zucker's films. Airplane II is one of my favorite bits, and I usually laugh my way through most of the movie.

Such is not the case here. Where one might persuade with humor, Zucker becomes pedantic. The funny bits in the movie tend to NOT be political, but Zucker's usual slapstick or wordplay. The concerns of the film and the characterizations/impersonations will not age well because they are very much a product of their time. In fact, they're already past their time: this film would've had more of an impact about 5 years ago, when the Iraq War was hot and heavy.

Be that as it may, I suppose the conservatives deserve a B for effort. This one film stands up in the face of Fahrenheit 9/11, Rendition, Syriana, Sicko, Munich, Redacted, The Road to Guantanamo, and other anti-war films and says, "To heck with it, we're gonna laugh at YOU!" Again, the problem I have is that it's not as funny as it could have been. For instance, there was one bit that was taken out of the final cut of the film where a bunch of police officers is stopped at airport security while a group of bomb-carrying terrorists is allowed to just pass by. Now to me that's funny because it's aggravating and has a grain of truth. Alas, the scene didn't make the final cut. But then, let's be serious for a moment: it's very difficult to make the war on terrorism funny, period.

And then there's this: any piece of propaganda runs the risk of becoming forced, desperate, creepy, or contrived. Consider, for instance, the faux grandeur of "Tomorrow Belongs to Me" in Cabaret.

Or one might consider the attempt to create "great leader" songs for children of Obama voters.

So anyway, An American Carol is every bit the piece of red meat for conservatives to devour as Fahrenheit 9/11 is for liberals. If you go in knowing that, you may devour it (or not) as you see fit. Personally, I like my red meat served with a little better seasoning and taste, to extend the metaphor.

Of course, just for fun, I'd advise my conservative friends to go see the movie once or twice, just to jack up the sales and annoy some liberal entertainment reporters for a week. But after the first week, buy a ticket, then go sneak into Appaloosa instead because Viggo Mortensen can do no wrong, and he even manages to be funny occasionally.

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