Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.
--C.S. Lewis--

Monday, October 13, 2008

An American Carol Review

Full disclosure: If it isn't obvious to anyone reading this blog for more than a day, I really wanted this movie to be good and successful going in. I agree with most of the sentiments it expresses, and wish there were at least one or two conservatives steadily cranking out movies in Hollywood (Remember the good old days of John Wayne and Jimmy Stewart?). I really don't mind that Hollywood is leftist, I just wish they could spare us one or two movies every so often.

Having said all of that, I was only partially satisfied with the results of David Zucker's first attempt at a polemic comedy. It had many funny scenes, and a couple that were even pretty positive and uplifting. The opening, an attempted terrorist attack on an Afghan voting station was great. So was the introduction to Michael Malone, beating off the Cubans trying to escape their country in his boat, so that he could get back and tell the world about Castro's Caribbean paradise.

Some of the best jokes were the more understated ones. For example, Kevin Sorbo's thinly veiled George Clooney accepting an award and celebrating his own courage in attacking a Senator who had been dead for 50 years. There were plenty of similar laughs throughout. Don't expect any of the jokes to be subtle though. Zucker has always wielded his comedy like a sledgehammer, and this movie is no exception. And don't worry about missing any jokes if you aren't part of the conservative in-crowd, Zucker will beat you senseless with them.

And herein lies the first problem with the movie. Satire can come in two forms. It can be subtle and clever, or bash-you-over-the-head absurd. Unfortunately, when trying to make an argument, the first type is the more effective one, and Zucker doesn't do subtle. EVER. If you were unaware, for example, that Michael Moore has what Tommy Callahan once called, "A bit of a weight problem", you won't be by the end of the night. Nor will you be unaware of his horrible odor, inability to score, or obnoxiousness. Ok, we get it, Michael Moore is a tool. I'm as big a fan of the occasional fat joke as the next guy, but when you include them in every other scene, you run the risk of looking like you had no other material.

Another problem for me was the direction of the plot. The movie seemed unable to decide how wide it's own scope would be. The main thrust of the plot was a defense of patriotism and just wars, while skewering the anti-American left. However, there were several other issues thrown in, seemingly at random, such as a defense of the Patriot Act and America's treatment of terrorist detainees. The problem is that, besides obscuring the overall purpose of the movie, some of these things are controversial even among the non-loony left. Plenty of American conservatives and libertarians are uncomfortable with provisions of the Patriot Act or how detainees have been handled. While you are free to say what you want about these people or their arguments, they are hardly deserving of being lumped in with Michael Moore and Rosie O'Donnell.

The last criticism may be more of a personal issue than something that matters to the average moviegoer, but I'll mention it anyway. Profanity from the mouths of children is jarring and sad, not funny. Several of the young characters in the movie expressed their opinion in language that would make a sailor think twice. Especially in an ostensibly conservative movie, shouldn't we show more respect for the innocence of children?

All that aside, as I said above, the movie had plenty of funny and even uplifting moments. If you really enjoy Zucker's style of comedy, or really want to see a conservative movie do well at the box office, go see it in the theaters. If not, wait for it to come out on video.