I see a lot of movies every year. A
ton. But this year I’ve decided I don’t see enough movies, so one of my
New Year Resolutions was to simply see more. And to write about them.
See, that’s the other half of the equation: I see a ton of movies, but
I write about comparatively few of them. There are a lot of reasons,
but they mainly boil down to the fact that I feel the need to do long
form reviews, and sometimes – like in the midst of Sundance – I just
don’t have the time.
so was born this new blog! I aim to make an entry for every single
movie I see in 2010. Some entries may be very short, some may be
lengthy. Entries may take a couple of days to be posted. Let’s see how
long this lasts.
last thing: one of my main objectives this year is to rewatch more
movies. I know this sounds like a strange goal, but there are films I
haven’t seen since high school, which means it’s been almost a lifetime
since I saw them. Recently I rewatched Black Christmas for
the first time since the 1980s, and I might as well have been seeing
the movie for the first time. I’m interested in getting a look at some
movies I loved or hated twenty or even ten years ago and seeing how I
feel about them now.
#7 An American Carol
d. David Zucker
We had 90 minutes to watch a movie and I wanted to watch something On Demand so we could snuggle in bed with the cat. An American Carol was on Showtime On Demand, and so our horror began.
The film has all the political subtlety and smarts of a Tea Party member shouting “NIGGER!” at Obama’s motorcade, but that’s what I expected. What bummed me out was the fact that David Zucker can barely make a movie anymore. His career has been in obvious and serious decline for a while, but I hoped that maybe it was the Hollywood system, which forced him into making sub-Disaster Movie rip-offs of the genre he helped perfect with Airplane!, Top Secret! and The Naked Gun, that was bringing him down. I could see why somebody would give none of their energy to Superhero Movie or Scary Movie 5. But An American Carol, as loony a personal vision as I’ve seen in a while, isn’t much better than those films. It actually is better – there are some decent gags in the film – but not much.
The movie’s biggest problem is that it’s batshit insane, which means Zucker can’t just lampoon Michael Moore or the left or the anti-war movement, he has to keep stopping the movie to insert pleas to our patriotism and to express naked indignation at the idea that someone might look at complex political issues with more nuance than ‘Kill ‘em all and let God sort ‘em out.’ It’s an angry movie, and it’s the kind of anger and zeal only a new convert can bring to the cause. Zucker is apparently one of those people, like Dennis Miller, who lost their minds completely after 9/11, and half the movie feels like he’s screaming at his old self for not seeing the light.
The film is so nuts and shrill that there’s really no point in even attacking its politics. There’s a pretty telling streak of racism throughout – every time the “Real America” is invoked we cut to shots of suburban white people – and most of its arguments are just screaming fits. Kelsey Grammar’s Ghost Of Patton Past gets angry that college professors are indoctrinating the kids, but what’s the alternative? Being indoctrinated in right wing politics, near as I can tell. Of course Zucker’s not thinking any of this out, which wouldn’t be a problem if his main focus was being funny as opposed to having some kind of hard right message.
There are some funny bits – for instance I’ve now seen Robert Davi doing the chicken dance, and that may have been worth the 90 minutes I spent watching the film – but most of the humor is of the unintentional “You’ve got to be fucking kidding me” variety. One thing I’ll say about the film is that it’s like a vivid time capsule of right wing lunacy circa 2006 (the movie feels dated even for its 2008 release date), and I think it’s kind of valuable just for that. It’s slightly too early to include Glenn Beck, but Bill O’Reilly is in it. Real snapshot of the moment.
One of the sadder things about the movie is watching all the actors taking paychecks. At least a few, like John Voight or James Woods, were legitimately expressing their neolithic politics. I don’t know Leslie Nielsen’s politics, but he seems barely aware of his surroundings in this film, and I spent the movie worrying he would die onscreen. Simon Rex and Kevin Sorbo show up, probably bringing doggie bags for craft services, and Zachary Levi guarantees I’ll never bother with Chuck. And if you needed another reason to hate Geoffrey Arend besides the fact that he spends every night suffocating in Christina Hendricks’ boobs, he’s one of the leads here, playing a bumbling terrorist.
Oh yeah – the bumbling terrorists remind me that the movie’s a mess. There’s a Leslie Nielsen framing device surrounding a story where some terrorists are trying to get a Michael Moore type to make a propaganda film for them, and then there’s a half-baked A Christmas Carol riff thrown in. Except the Christmas Carol thing barely happens – JFK shows up as Jacob Marley, Patton is the Ghost of the Vague Past as well as being the Ghost of Alternate Modern Reality. George Washington gives a speech as the Ghost of Offensively Milking 9/11 and then Trace Adkins is the Ghost of You’ve Got to Be Shitting Me. Maybe the best part of this movie is imagining Zucker convincing himself that people who listen to overproduced modern country music are the “Real America.”
I will give the film this much: I made it 45 minutes before I started fucking around on my phone. And my girlfriend, who is a huge comedy nerd, made it about an hour before just bugging out. The cat was asleep the whole time. Now that we’re sort of past that really scary historical moment of the second half of the Bush administration, this film is a fun way to revisit the anger you used to feel when watching Fox News, except it’s not half as funny.