Liberal? Conservative? Our nation has been split in two; a gangland of citizens who love to bicker over political minutiae, choosing sides with the sort of venom typically reserved for pro wrestling or the finer points of KISStory.
However, I think our brittle populace can all agree on one thing: the searing, unyielding pain of an atrocious comedy. “An American Carol” is such a beast, hoping to be the first Conservative-angled production to break free from assured ridicule and enjoy a rich box office life, yet comes staggering to the screen crippled with an absurd agenda, farcical impotence, and necrotic taste in comedic targets.
Michael Malone (Kevin Farley) is a left-wing documentary filmmaker with a healthy appetite for anti-American liberal stunts and an even bigger interest in junk food. Trying to make the ultimate confrontational statement, Malone is campaigning to abolish the Fourth of July on grounds that it represents disgraceful American warmongering values.
This traitorous act perks the interest of the Taliban (including Robert Davi and Geoffrey Arend), who want to finance Malone’s protest in an effort to blow up Madison Square Garden. Sent from the heavens to stop Malone are three ghosts: George Washington (Jon Voight), General Patton (Kelsey Grammer), and the Angel of Death (Trace Adkins). Trying to change Malone’s mind about America, the spirits take the blustery boob on a journey through history, reminding the documentarian what the country has suffered through and what it stands for today.
Director David Zucker is best known as one of the pioneers of the modern parody film, a mastermind behind the likes of “Airplane!” and “The Naked Gun.” “American Carol” is Zucker’s valentine to the Conservative movement and structured much like the comedies he’s known for. It’s a Looney Tunes-style farce, hitting the viewer over the head with a blitz of slapstick and sight gags, rarely pausing for a breath. Traditionally, this concentration of speed is a welcome addition to nonsense, yet, for “Carol,” it’s in service of monumental filmmaking gracelessness and disingenuous intent.
Fearing Liberal Hollywood has been telling their side of the American story for too long, Zucker and his writing staff strive to offer their own take on the Michael Moores of the world, and how these undignified souls are sullying the U.S.A. Moore is such an easy target (and one that’s been done to death), but familiarity fails to restrain Zucker, who doesn’t just satire Moore’s broad political stance, but unsheathes a machete and symbolically severs his head.
Malone is an obese, military-hating, unwashed bastard who claims vague cultural victory when his movies clean up awards, yet longs to direct a fictional feature. Everyone hates him, he’s never two steps away from a Twinkie, and he’s receptive to monetary offers from terrorists. It’s a cartoon depiction of Moore, performed by Farley (doing his best Jim Belushi impression) through a series of quadruple-chinnings and multiple fall-down-and-go-booms. It’s not quite the evisceration Zucker is aiming for, undermined by the staleness of the target and the unnerving idiocy of the writing. Get it? Moore likes to eat! He hates America because he criticizes it!
Zucker doesn’t stop at Moore/Malone for pointed mockery, “Carol” also tackles loathsome American poxes such as college educations (the damn hippies are indoctrinating your kids, people!), exercising constitutional rights, and questioning leadership. The horror. The ACLU also gets a spanking (imagined as zombies enabling terrorists), along with those wacky goofballs, the suicide bombers. “Carol” rides the fine edge of taste for most of its running time, with the director relying on Hitler and concentration camp jokes to show that he’s capable of ribbing anything, not just liberals. Shhh, don’t tell Zucker, but I don’t think Hitler is funny anymore. That’s just me.
“Carol” is created with a specific agenda to support the American armed forces, using the Washington and Patton characters (along with John Kennedy) to remain the audience that diplomacy is second only to a strong military hand. The ghosts show Malone (in full “Christmas Carol” fashion) the results of an America without the sacrifice of war, exploring how slavery still exists and visiting a nuked Detroit. Of course, with “Carol” being a zany comedy and all, there’s even a sobering moment spent at the smoldering ruins of 9/11, punctuated with Malone’s head pinballing between two gigantic bells. Shhh, don’t tell Zucker, but I don’t think 9/11 is funny anymore.
Besides, of all filmmakers in the world to beat Zucker to the terrorist comedy punch, Uwe Boll danced the same tasteless tango earlier this year with the blindingly awful “Postal.” “Carol” can whine about Moore all it wants, but I’ll take “Canadian Bacon” over this trainwreck any day of the week. Perhaps made with the best intentions to honor the nation and those who choose to fight for our freedom, “An American Carol” instead reinforces how needlessly divisive our country has become. Certainly there’s a better way to say “Yay America!” than this lousy, hopeless movie, easily one of the worst films of the year.