Carol not that funny

An American Carol
United States, 2008
Directed By: David Zucker
Written By: David Zucker, Myrna Sokoloff, Lewis Friedman
Starring: Kevin Farley, Kelsey Grammer, Dennis Hopper, Leslie Nielsen, Jon Voight
Running Time: 83 min.
Rated PG-13 for rude and irreverent content, and for language and brief drug material
1 out of 5 stars
“I hope it’s funny.”
            —Michael Moore, when Larry King asked him about An American Carol

Yeah, Michael, I wish.

An American Carol isn’t a “good” film in any sense of the word, but it is entertaining to watch, simply for how astoundingly miscalculated everything about it is. In theory, it sounds like the sort of film that has a built-in audience—a Michael Moore  spoof is taught to love America and support the troops—but it blew that, too, by coming out several years after the peak of Moore’s relevance.

At the screening I attended, there were only three other people, and no one laughed (but I guess that doesn’t matter, since David Zucker already has their money). The only question is, what were they thinking?
Plotwise, the film borrows just as liberally as you might expect it to from Charles Dickens: controversial filmmaker Michael Malone (Kevin Farley) has, together with a website called “,” begun a campaign to abolish the Fourth of July (strangely, it’s never referred to as “Independence Day,” suggesting, perhaps, that Malone would have the third be directly followed by the fifth). In order to stop him before it’s too late, the spirits of John F. Kennedy (Chriss Anglin), George S. Patton (Kelsey Grammer), and George Washington (Jon Voight) visit him, and show him the American way.
As you’ve probably figured out by now, the truly astounding thing about this film is the level of talent that honestly thought this was a good idea. In addition to everyone previously mentioned, Dennis Hopper, Leslie Nielsen, James Woods, and Robert Davi all make appearances. We also have Fox News pundit Bill O’Reilly, country singer Trace Adkins, former child star Gary Coleman, and the ubiquitous Paris Hilton. Now in all fairness: O’Reilly has never backed away from a conservative idea, no matter how bad it is; Hilton will do anything; Nielsen can’t get work outside of Zucker’s films, and Coleman can’t get work at all. In addition, all of these actors would appear to have conservative leanings—but if they’re really interested in spreading the Gospel of Reagan, is this honestly the best way they can think of to do it?
The main problem here is that none of the film is funny; Zucker has simply lost his touch as he’s aged. He’s attempting to use the same “throw-ten-jokes-against-the-wall-and-hope-one-sticks” method he popularized with Airplane! and The Naked Gun, but he just can’t keep up anymore: he throws about five jokes against the wall in the same amount of time, and none of them actually stick. Even the ones that are funny in theory are badly timed (such as Coleman’s cameo). A sampling of the humor on display: the fact that Michael Moore/Malone/whatever makes documentaries, not features, is mocked mercilessly (it comes up every ten minutes or so), but Zucker never bothers to tell us why that’s funny.
At times, it’s entertaining just to see how shamelessly partisan the film is; we the audience are poor, lost fools for even considering opposing a war, and An American Carol is here to show us the way. In a sense, it’s a refreshing change from the usual War-Is-Bad monotony you get out of Hollywood, but it’s even less thought-provoking, and has even less room for dissent. Zucker can say what he wants about Moore’s films, but at least he presents arguments for his positions (even if his premises are sometimes suspect); An American Carol is content to parrot what the unthinking masses of the Right think they already know back to them. Exactly how many times does this need to be done?
So far this year, we’ve endured Ben Stein’s rallying cry for Intelligent Design proponents (Expelled), Bill Maher’s rallying cry for unbelievers (Religulous), and even Michael Moore’s rallying cry for liberal college students (Slacker Uprising). Now we have David Zucker’s rallying cry for conservatives. Well, enough already. The troops are rallied, okay guys? They’re all standing along their party lines, smugly shaking their differences of opinion in each other’s faces. The only relevant question is, what were you hoping to accomplish with them?

About the author:
A graduate of the University of Nebraska, Luke Harrington currently resides in Tulsa and works in the aerospace industry–but, at any given moment, would probably rather be reviewing movies and music.  In his spare time, he’s off playing blues piano, pretending to be Assistant Editor for, or reviewing the many musical events in Northeastern Oklahoma for Tulsa Today.