Review of 'An American Carol'

Every once in a while, even in the dominant liberal print media, it is possible to find a humorous article or editorial cartoon that makes a conservative point. But to find a funny movie which makes an important conservative point, starring well-known actors, made by a well-known director, and released on more than seven screens nationally is as rare as…well, as rare as an outspoken Hollywood conservative.

So it was with hopeful anticipation that I ventured to the theater to see David Zucker’s
“An American Carol”, which makes some important conservative points through Airplane- and Naked Gun-style slapstick humor.  

The film is a political parody of A Christmas Carol, following around a documentary film maker, Michael Malone (Kevin Farley as a character unmistakably like hyperlib Michael Moore) visited by three spirits.  The story is being told by Leslie Nielsen who is celebrating the 4th of July on a typical all-American block, with his grandchildren listening intently, as the tale starts off in Afghanistan.

The terrorist leader, Aziz (Robert Davi) is calling for one of his group and yells out “Mohammed!” Twenty bearded terrorists jump up from behind rocks, causing Aziz’s right-hand man, Ahmed (Serdar Kalsin) to say “they’re all named Mohammed, sir.”  Aziz says “I must use last names” and yells out “Hussein!”…at which point all twenty guys jump up again.  That’s the best Islamic terrorists get in “An American Carol” and it’s no wonder that Kelsey Grammer — who plays the ghost of General George S. Patton — has said that it’s crossed his mind to fear for his life after making this film.

In case Zucker’s dislike for the Taliban wasn’t already obvious, in the next scene, one of the terrorists, naturally named Mohammed (Geoffrey Arend), is standing in line to vote. After being excoriated by Aziz for “voting in the infidel election”, he says he’s not voting for president but that he supports the ballot measure which says that “A marriage should be between a man and a woman. Or between a man and a really good-looking man.”  

You get the idea.

When Aziz and his henchmen view the most recent terrorist training video they realize it’s bad…really bad. They want to make a new movie, “one that makes it look like we’re winning even though we aren’t” and for that they need a Hollywood director “who really, really hates America.”  Cut to Michael (Moore) Malone on a beach in Cuba lauding the Cuban medical system as Cuban military execute a man in a wheel chair.

Back in the USA, Malone is rude to some Boy Scouts for their “fascist uniforms”, and stops by a Girl Scout table to buy cookies…lots of cookies.  He asks one of the Girl Scouts about her merit badges and she responds “This one is for being polite to a fat traitorous ignorant sack of s**t.”

And that’s the best Michael Moore…I mean Malone…gets in “An American Carol.”

Malone is organizing a protest against July 4th. It’s not getting much interest other than from groups like “Vegans against Fur” and “Abolish the Military”, but he’s determined to make his point that nothing is worth going to war for.

At the film awards ceremony later that day, the first award is the Leni Riefenstahl Award, calling Hitler’s film maker a “tireless promoter of his campaign for change…through the creative manipulation of the truth.” Malone wins the award for his movie “Die You American Pig”, his third award, after having also won for “Shame On You America” and “America Sucks A Big One.”

While Malone is watching TV (eating four TV dinners), he is visited by the ghost of John F. Kennedy who suggests Malone pay attention to the entire inaugural speech, then tells Malone that he’ll be visited by three spirits, before walking back into the TV screen muttering under his breath that Malone is a (mild expletive deleted).

The key spirit of the film is Gen. George S. Patton, played by Kelsey Grammer with an enthusiastic combination of sarcasm, serious points, and slaps of Malone.

He brings Malone to watch Neville Chamberlain sign over the Sudetenland (and any other part of Eastern Europe which he can spell) to Hitler… then polishing Hitler’s boots while Hitler tells Chamberlain he’ll name a concentration camp after him.

Patton says to Malone “Talking to evil dictators gets you nothing.  Is there anything you think is worth fighting for?”

One of the funniest parts of the movie is its swipe at my alma mater, Columbia University, including a musical number with Columbia professors singing about how nothing has changed “since 1968”, how if you agree with the professor you get an A and how you get extra credit if you’re black or gay. It’s part of a “Peace Studies Symposium” about which Malone says “It’s called education” and Patton responds “It’s called indoctrination”.

That could be the sort of thing which the NY Times reviewer called “cheap shots”, but which anyone who’s had to suffer through an education at an “elite” American university will recognize as disturbingly accurate. (And — note to the Times — a huge number of great jokes are “cheap shots” but only to the butt of the jokes.  Get a life, fella.)

While “An American Carol” is recommended by how much it was disliked by the NY Times, Reuters, Entertainment Weekly, and Variety, the movie isn’t in the league of “Airplane” or most of David Zucker’s other work.  Viewer ratings on movie web sites make it clear that the film probably seems funnier to those of us who deeply dislike Michael Moore than to the average filmgoer.

Malone is next visited by the ghost of George Washington (Jon Voight) who talks to him about fundamental American rights and opens the door on to the wreckage of the World Trade Center. Although Voight’s part is short and though the movie is a comedy, the few minutes with George Washington carry some true dramatic weight, at least for a viewer who has any respect for the sacrifice and wisdom of our Founders.

Patton makes an important comment about rights as well when Malone asks him if he’s against privacy rights. Patton’s response “Only when they conflict with survival rights.”

Woven through Malone’s journey is a plan by Aziz to blow up Madison Square Garden during a country music concert starring Trace Adkins, who happens to visit Malone as the Angel of Death telling him “there are consequences for what you do”.

The theme is clear: Each spirit and the people whom Malone is taken to visit make the point to Malone that we (Americans) are the good guys, that “terrorism is not our fault”, that certain things are not only worth fighting for but must be fought for.

After seeing a future where we have lost the war on terror, Malone finally starts to see the light and tells the crowd assembled for his anti-July 4th protest “We’re in a real war here and you guys are acting like it’s September 10th.”  Of course, that brings a chorus of boos from the assembled leftists.

Malone is eventually convinced of the error of his ways and helps stop Aziz’s diabolical plan.  But in the end it’s hard to believe that Michael Moore would ever have the same realization or take any action to save his countrymen.

Conservatives and people with an open mind about politics (if there are any left in America) should find the film funny and entertaining enough to justify the price of admission. Michael Moore, professors and students of Columbia University, and other friends of the Taliban might not enjoy it too much.

Near the end of the film, Leslie Nielsen relates to his grandchildren some final thoughts told Patton by Malone: “And it turned out people actually wanted to see movies which showed good things about America.”

In a bit of unfortunate truth, the kids respond “Oh, come on, grandpa!” to which Neilsen admits, with a hint of sadness, “It’s just a story…”

On a scale of one to five, for being willing and able to slap down the American left and exposing the danger they pose to the America we know, but sacrificing some humor by trying a little too hard, I give “An American Carol” three “Drew Careys”.  And we wish there were more Drew Careys, and David Zuckers, around Hollywood.