An American Carol
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It's a beautiful 4th of July. Flags are waving, sparklers are sparkling, neighbors are smiling. Grandpa brings a platter of his special-recipe burgers over to the kids' table. But after one bite, the freckled tykes realize they'd much rather hear one of Grandpa's fabled stories than have to stomach his badly grilled chow. So he launches into a tale of a Scrooge-like guy who hates Independence Day and all it stands for.
The not-such-a-hero of the tale is one Michael Malone, a left-wing documentary filmmaker who detests America as much as he loves its junk food. He's set up a protest rally, in cooperation with the "Democrazy Inaction" organization moovealong.org, to abolish the 4th of July on the grounds that it represents everything that is disgraceful about America's "warmongering" culture.
Actually, to set the record straight, I should accurately report here that Malone says he loves America—and that's why he wants to see it destroyed.
Malone's latest documentary, Die You American Pigs, has won the slovenly director awards from the Hollywood elite, but he wants more. He wants to do a feature film that will show the world his artistic skills while giving his hoggish homeland a bad case of cinematic dyspepsia. He even has his script, Fascist America, ready to shove down the nation's collective throat if only he can finagle some financial backing.
And wouldn't you know it, on the other side of the world there just so happens to be a group of Taliban jihadists who need an updated propaganda/recruitment film. (They're running out of willing suicide bombers.) But where can they go to find the movie expertise and the right level of disdain for their enemies? "This will not be hard to find in Hollywood," says one. "They all hate America." So, in no time, Malone is their man.
But before he can get the cameras rolling, Malone receives a late-night visit from his childhood hero John F. Kennedy. The ghostly president promises visits from three spirits (à la Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol) who will take Malone back through history, show him the truth about America's choices and hopefully restore his withered black heart to a healthy red-white-and-blue.
An American Carol applauds brave, valiant men and women in history who loved the U.S. and were willing to sacrifice everything in its defense. The film gives a mini history lesson, of sorts, showing how war has sometimes been the only choice to keep America and the world free from evil's nefarious plans.
A reenactment of President Kennedy's inaugural speech points to his words: "We shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty."
There is a recurring assertion that people who get their history from Hollywood movies are being seriously misguided.
A comedian named Rosie O'Connell claims the 9/11 calamities were self-inflicted and shows Fox News pundit Bill O'Reilly clips from her new documentary, The Truth About Radical Christians. She insists that Christians are just as dangerous as Islamic terrorists by showing such things as Christians storming a plane cockpit brandishing a crucifix as a weapon and a nun triggering explosives on a crowded bus after yelling, "Hail Mary full of grace!" O'Connell's film also includes intentionally absurd "warnings" about other menacing fanatics, such as the "Episcopal suppository bomber." It ends with crowds of people screaming, "Oh, no! Not the Christians!"
President Kennedy's three "spirits"—Gen. George S. Patton, George Washington and the Angel of Death—take Malone to see a number of enlightening events. Before they do, Malone quips, "Three spirits are gonna come scare the s--- out of me and I'll be born again, right?"
A tune brought to our attention at a 4th of July celebration is "God Bless America." Malone's nephew's son, Timmy, cries out, "God bless us everyone!" ACLU lawyers (depicted as zombies) attempt to remove stone tablets carved with the Ten Commandments from a courthouse wall. A terrorist says, "Thank Allah for the ACLU." Allah is praised in several other situations, as well.
Gen. Patton appears to be praying in a chapel, but it's revealed that he's actually addressing George Washington. Washington later says, "When you meet the Almighty ... only the truth will do."
Several Hollywood parties and celebrity events are populated with women sporting form-fitting and cleavage-baring fashions. Malone ogles them relentlessly. And on several occasions, while traveling in the company of a spirit, he reaches out to fondle women's breasts. (He's always stopped by a swift slap to the face.)
A naked man is given a body cavity search in a quick documentary clip. (We see his profile and bare backside, and we also see other people around him clutching clothing to their naked bodies.) It's mentioned that there are rumors about President Abraham Lincoln having been "gay." It's stated that Malone's old high school girlfriend had sex with many men in uniform. (We see her passionately kissing and hugging one of them.)
Men disarming a bomb in a public toilet stall are thought to be engaged in a sexual act by passersby. Stray comments smirk at homosexual encounters, pornography and getting "laid." A billboard features a woman wearing a burqa that's hiked up to her waist exposing her bare legs. An obscene hand gesture references masturbation.
As the movie's clown of choice, Malone is the most frequent recipient of slapstick blows to the head, face, chest, stomach and backside as he tumbles in and out of everything from a Cuban boatyard to a colonial graveyard.
All the violent happenings, from terrorist bombings to kicks in the shins, are played for laughs here—not always a great thing: We watch a terrorist "training video" that shows suicide bombers repeatedly blowing up themselves, cars and buildings. One hapless terrorist crashes his bicycle, flies through the air and slams down onto a car. A second walks up to him and "assists" him in pulling the pin on his homemade bomb. They're both vaporized in the blast.
Much of An American Carol revolves around a plot to plant explosives in Madison Square Garden during an Independence Day concert and patriotic rally for servicemen and their families.
A courtroom full of ACLU zombies are bloodied and blown away by soldiers and a judge armed with rifles and a shotgun. Malone "kills" two of them for dissing his documentaries. A man in a wheelchair is shot point-blank by Cuban policemen, blowing a spray of blood out the back of his chair. And a crazy old man chases two young people into a hallway with a large sword. He returns with his blade dripping with blood. Blind and crippled children are accidentally pushed off a dock into the water.
Crude or Profane Language
The film uses grade school children to give voice to several profanities—the s-word among them—for the sake of a few quick gags. The script's whole lexicon of foul language includes a handful each of the words "s---," "h---," "d--n," "a--," "b--ch" and "b--tard." There are truncated uses of one f-word and one n-word. God's name is interjected a half-dozen times; Jesus' once.
Drug and Alcohol Content
At parties and awards dinners, wine and other types of alcohol flow freely. Malone and Patton smoke cigars. It's said that the terrorists can pay the $10 million price tag for a movie because there was a "good opium crop this year." Acid is joked about. A group of professors are shown smoking marijuana.
Other Negative Elements
An American Carol paints its comic point of view with a very broad brush, utterly unconcerned with political correctness—or even general niceness. Among those gleefully denigrated and/or made fun of here are the sick and infirm, university professors, actors, politicians, social and political activists, Arabs, Germans and African-Americans. When Patton demonstrates what might have happened if Lincoln hadn't fought the Civil War, the resulting scenes feed racial stereotypes at best, and could be interpreted as insultingly racist at worst.
Students at a protest hold signs that say such things as, "End Disease—Medicine Is Not the Answer!" and "Overpopulation—Gay Marriage Is the Answer!"
One set of gags revolves around a man's scattered body parts being examined by a forensics team after a massive bombing. They play with his amputated buttocks, using them to mimic breasts and making them "talk."
During the end credits, a follow-up scene at the family picnic features Grandpa, apparently sleeping. Then one of the kids says, "Nope, he's dead."
If you've ever heard of the decades-old cinema spoof romps Airplane! or The Naked Gun, then you've heard of director David Zucker's farcical flare. Over the years he's gotten his share of adulation from critics and colleagues. But not anymore.
This time around, he's receiving more growls than guffaws. And that's partly because An American Carol takes careful aim at the liberal dogma that's an entrenched Tinseltown tenet.
"Only you can decide whether you're in the mood to wade through the smear of stink jokes and political ravings," writes Lisa Schwarzbaum for Entertainment Weekly. Prairie Miller, representing NewsBlaze, goes further, calling the film "a liberal witch hunt in court jester clothing, and in-your-face politics presumably to coincide with the election, while certain to have Charles Dickens roll over in his grave. An American Carol: Huh?! Cinema at its foulest."
So how exactly did a conservative-slanted "stink joke" comedy come to be made in Hollywood, the very Left Coast place where Zucker says, "When you meet, you give each other a secret look—'Are you a Republican too?'"
"9/11 happened, and I couldn't take it anymore," Zucker explains in a Weekly Standard interview. "The response to 9/11—the right was saying this is pure evil we're facing and the left was saying how are we at fault for this? I think I'd just had enough."
Those nodding their heads right now in agreement with the rankled director-turned-rabble-rouser will most likely find An American Carol's openhanded slaps to celebrities Michael Moore and Rosie O'Donnell to be long in coming and very easy to laugh at. Did I say laugh? Hey, some folks will probably be cheering in the aisles. And the cheering won't be just for the onscreen comeuppance. It'll also be for Zucker's chuckle-filled salutes to a flag-waving heartland that unabashedly loves America.
Even staunch supporters of Zucker's view of apple pie, country music and our military missions overseas should be forewarned, though: This is not county fair-style fare just because Trace Adkins shows up to sing a song. Our culture has come to expect spoof movies to consist of nothing more than meaningless drivel filled with vulgar content. And while Zucker chooses a somewhat different carnival ride by using absurdity to point out absurdity, his comedy still often crosses the line between silly-crazy and sordid-crass. American Carol isn't averse at all to including some of the same equal-opportunity offensiveness—meanspirited sight gags, foul-mouthed children, racial insults—that pockmarks most of its modern spoof siblings.
Other Belief Systems
Readability Age Range
Leslie Nielsen as Grandpa; Kevin Farley as Michael Malone; Kelsey Grammer as Gen. George S. Patton; Dennis Hopper as The Judge; Chriss Anglin as John F. Kennedy; Jon Voight as George Washington; James Woods as Michael's Agent; Vicki Browne as Rosie O'Connell; Trace Adkins as Himself and The Angel of Death; Paris Hilton and Bill O'Reilly as Themselves