"American Carol" an unfunny political spoof

Tue Oct 7, 2008 9:19am EDT
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By Frank Scheck

NEW YORK (Hollywood Reporter) - Arriving at least one election cycle too late, David Zucker's "An American Carol" uses the less-than-original tack of using Dickens' Yuletide classic to spoof left-wing politics and provocateur filmmaker Michael Moore in particular.

Although it's refreshing to encounter a parody that doesn't use tired movie genres for inspiration, "Carol" squanders its comedic potential with a near-total absence of laughs. Audiences will be mostly stone-faced, though it's a pretty good bet that Moore will be laughing his ass off. The film opened Friday without advance press screenings, and earned just $3.6 million for the weekend, good enough for No. 9.

Zucker, whose credits include such major successes in the genre as "Airplane!" and "The Naked Gun," apparently felt that combining right-wing political arguments with cheap gags about Moore's slovenliness was a surefire recipe for laughs. Actually, even those who find Moore's politics anathema will have some sympathy for the main character, none too imaginatively dubbed "Michael Malone" and played appealingly by Kevin Farley.

A framing device featuring Leslie Nielsen relating the story to kids at a Fourth of July barbecue adds little comedic value to the proceedings, which involve the portly filmmaker -- whose latest effort is "Die, You American Pigs" -- being visited by the ghosts of JFK, Gen. George Patton (Kelsey Grammer), George Washington (Jon Voight) and the Angel of Death (country singer Trace Adkins).

The ensuing episodes -- including Neville Chamberlain shining Hitler's shoes, the happy slaves at Malone's plantation (there was no Civil War thanks to Lincoln's pacifism) and ACLU zombies being gunned down by a trigger-happy judge (Dennis Hopper) -- are meant to depict how leftist ideas inevitably lead to ruination.

Unfortunately, the seriousness of the arguments -- Zucker even brings the charred ruins of the World Trade Center towers into the mix -- work against the gags, few of which are remotely funny anyway. The sole laughs are scored by Robert Davi, amusingly playing it straight as a Muslim terrorist who wants to hire Malone to make a suicide bomber recruitment film.

Besides the presence of such Hollywood Republicans as Grammer, Voight and James Woods, there also are cameos by Kevin Sorbo, David Alan Grier and Gary Coleman. Bill O'Reilly shows up as himself, somehow managing to be more dignified and restrained among these farcical proceedings than he is on his own TV show.

Reuters/Hollywood Reporter