Actors routinely use the word “brave” to describe a fellow actor’s performance or role selection.
Don’t believe them.
You want brave? How about making an unabashedly pro-American, anti-Michael Moore comedy to be released in the heat of election season? David Zucker’s “An American Carol” is the bravest film in a while, a movie that swims against the tide of 99 percent of what Hollywood exports.
But let’s not confuse brave with funny.
Zucker, the man who gave us “Airplane!” “The Naked Gun” and the brilliant TV series “Police Squad,” is too busy luxuriating in his conservative causes to make us double over with laughter.
“Carol” cleverly spins the classic Scrooge tale on its axis, casting Kevin Farley as a lefty filmmaker named Michael Malone out to squash Independence Day. Any resemblance to Moore is strictly intentional.
Malone’s latest anti-American rant has died at the theater, so he decides to work with a duo of Middle Eastern producers to fund his next project. The two are actually terrorists hoping Malone could make their next recruitment film.
Before Malone can step behind the camera he’s visited by the Ghosts of America’s past – Gen. Patton (Kelsey Grammer) George Washington (Jon Voight) and the Angel of Death (country star Trace Adkins).
Each tries to show Malone America’s virtues through historical snippets and chilling alternate realities. All three actors do standout work here, particularly Voight who has very little screen time but has gravitas to burn.
It’s all handled with the subtlety of an Ann Coulter column. Zucker’s stock in trade is obvious, sophomoric humor – why use a scalpel when a sledgehammer will do? – but that approach fails here.
“Carol” lacks the giddy, gag-a-minute template which energized movies like “The Naked Gun.” We’re asked to chuckle at routine slapstick far beneath Zucker’s best work.
A few inspired sequences do emerge, like a song-and-dance number mocking how colleges indoctrinate the young, and a smackdown of Rosie O’Donnell’s insipid comment that radical Christians are just as dangerous as radical Muslims.
“An American Carol” doesn’t deliver enough laughs, but it still ranks for its “shock and awe” value. Its content is so foreign to today’s movies that it feels like a major event even if it’s only a very minor comedy.
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