Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Let's Get This Over With

Our story so far: In August 2008, I first heard of a movie called An American Carol about which I wrote several times. Long story short, this David Zucker directed comedy was supposed to herald a new era of conservative dominance over the movie industry and turn Hollywood into the West Coast annex of the RNC. The one flaw in this perfect plan was that, as time went by, word started getting out that the movie was on an epic level of bad. The movie's inarguable box office failure sparked some hilarious conservative conspiracy theories and buried hopes of making a series of overtly conservative films for several generations. That was pretty much that except for one nagging little detail. Despite my intention to do so, I had never gotten around to seeing the movie I had spent so much time trashing. I decided that no way in Hell was I going to plunk down the nine dollar theater price but, when it came out on DVD, I always managed to find different movies I wanted in my Netflix queue. "Oh look, Hannah Montana--Season 1 just came out, guess Carol has to wait till next week," is something I would typically say. It looked as if I would never actually get around to watching it.

Until now. Until I discovered that Netflix had it available for streaming which made me think on a lazy Saturday afternoon, "Why not?" so I microwaved some popcorn, clicked the PLAY button under the movie's icon and prepared to see if I was wrong.

An American Carol is bad. Showgirls bad. Bride Wars bad. As bad as fetish videos of women who stomp grape jam with their feet are for people who don't have that particular fetish. I know, I know, you're thinking, "How could the 8 millionth rip-off of the Scrooge story directed by David Zucker whose last good comedy, The Naked Gun, came out 20 years ago possibly be bad?" That should have been the first clue for the movie's investors. They should have thought that when Zucker pitched them the movie, said, "Oops, we forgot our checkbooks," run out of their so fast that they left Road Runner clouds behind them and had someone call Zucker later on to tell him that they had died. Instead, they agreed to finance this movie and, as a result, now have jobs where they pleasure anonymous men on the street for three dollars.

The movie opens with a shot of the title superimposed over an American flag and pans down to the ideal conservative world: a neighborhood street fair where the sun is shining, kids are playing and no one is black save for one old woman who gets hit in the face with a Frisbee in a moment that is both the movie's first attempt at humor and the movie's first failed attempt at humor. We see good old Leslie Nielsen playing the same role he's been playing for Zucker since Airplane. This time around, he's making some burgers for the kids which, in the movie's second failed attempt at humor, inexplicably taste horrible. I can't figure that out as barbecued hamburgers are tough to screw up. I also can't figure out why this was thought by anyone to be funny. Anyway, Nielsen gathers the kids around and tells them the Scrooge ripoff story which is the actual plot of the movie.

Middle Eastern terrorists led by Aziz (played by outspoken conservative Robert Davi who now gets to add this to a resume to such stellar films as The Hot Chick, Call Me: The Rise and Fall of Heidi Fleiss and, his magnum opus, Showgirls) decide that they need a professional movie maker to help them with their efforts to recruit suicide bombers. They need someone who hates America and that leads them to Michael Malone (Kevin Farley). That's his name in the movie, anyway, but he's really a conservative caricature of Michael Moore.

Hey, did you know that Michael Moore was fat? No, seriously, he's really fat. Also, did you know that fat jokes about Michael Moore never, ever get old? That's the opinion of this movie, anyway. Ha ha, a mouse pooped on a pizza and he ate it. Oh, a twinkie was smashed against the wall and he ate it anyway. Are your sides hurting from laughter yet? If not, I'm sure one of the 8000 other "Michael Moore is fat" jokes will make you chuckle. Anyway, the fat guy, in addition to making movies with titles like Die You American Pigs (seriously), also heads up an anti-American organization called Moovealong.org which is trying to abolish the 4th of July. In a callback to A Christmas Carol, Malone is visited by his nephew that has recently joined the Navy who invites him to celebrate 4th of July with him before he ships out to Iraq. Ignoring the Scrooge story parallels in his life, he goes home for his nightly gorging and is confronted by the ghost of John F. Kennedy who tells him that he will be confronted by three spirits to help him atone and realize how awesome America is because it fights needless wars against non-whites.

The first ghost he meets is George Patton (Kelsey Grammer) who helps Malone up after he gets trampled by a crowd (something that also happens a lot and, like fat jokes, apparently isn't supposed to get old). Patton takes him back in time to a World War II peace protest which, for some reason, is supposed to convince Malone that peace is bad. Or something. When Malone is informed that the people here cannot see him, he tries to fondle a woman's breasts and gets slapped (oh yeah, he also gets slapped endlessly, another example of the movie's Doctrine Of Repeating Jokes Endlessly). Patton then takes him to the 60s and that's where this plot recap ends. I think it was around the 40 minute mark that I decided life was too short to waste another second of it on this crap and turned the movie off. Maybe Zucker was saving all the funny jokes for the last half. If he did, I will never know.

So why did this movie so spectacularly fail? Very simply, it wasn't funny. I think I laughed three times (like when terrorist leader Aziz ends up blowing up his own car) in the 40 minutes I watched it, not good for a movie that had about one joke per minute. Thing is, Zucker and crew wouldn't have made this movie if they didn't think it was funny. The only reason anyone could have found any of this garbage to be funny is summed up by Filmcritic.com's Bill Gibron who said:
Just too insular to be engaging.
A lot of this stuff probably is hilarious to people who live on a steady diet of right wing radio, Fox News and conservative blogs. It has been pointed out in several places lately that conservatives have created their own insular mythology and have forgotten that outsiders have no idea what they're talking about when they reference that mythology. I predict it is only a matter of time before you turn on Fox News and see this:
Good evening all, I'm Chris Wallace. At the top of the news tonight, Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra. Also, Shaka, when the walls fell. Fred Barnes, any thoughts?
With that in mind, I must amend my previous observation: The biggest problem with An American Carol was that it was funny to David Zucker and a very slim portion of the population, but no one else. I can see Zucker opening up Final Draft and wetting himself with laughter as he wrote yet another "Michael Moore is a big talentless fatass who hates America and loves terrorists" joke and then sent the script out to fellow hardcore conservatives who gave him positive feedback and validation. It simply never occurred to any of them that the bulk of the movie going public would disagree with them.

And so, I'm finally done with An American Carol. If it is ever mentioned here again, it will almost certainly be in the context of, "This movie was as bad as An American Carol," a statement I can now make with authority.


FM said...

Is it bad that I laughed at the Darmok joke?

Michael Clear said...

I really liked the fact that I referenced a story set in an insular mythology that was itself all about referencing insular mythology in order to make a point about referencing insular mythology. I'm a bit surprised that a hole in the space/time continuum didn't open but that's probably a good thing.

FM said...

Funny story, that, actually. Star Trek (the new one) managed to completely sidestep the insular mythology bit, but the funny thing is, I recently heard about a prequel comic that explains the backstory of the movie, before Spock travels back in time and destroys said insular mythology completely.

The backstory basically represents all the things that went wrong with Star Trek before new, non-fan people got their hands on it. Pointless cameos of characters (Worf and that Data clone from Nemesis are heavily features), really bad technobabble (their explanation for the red matter and such), really ludicrous explanations for plot points that actually needed one (that Romulan makeup? That's some sort of grieving paint. Also there's some stupid explanation about the mining ship's appearance involving Remans or something), and complete ignorance of even fictional physics (the supernova will keep expanding past Romulus because it's fueled by all the matter it eats...somehow.)

I'm not completely sure what my point was except to say that Star Trek is a perfect example of that old adage - being a fan of a thing doesn't make you qualified to create works for that thing.

Michael Clear said...

That's interesting. I was wondering about that paint. There still isn't a decent explanation for the whole stupid supernova scenario.

FM said...

I just kind of assumed that Spock helped them because that's generally what he and the Feds did.

Admittedly, a little more explanation would have been nice, even if we skirt the lines of bad technobabble. They could have used that to fill out the running time and get rid of that stupid, completely unnecessary scene with the ice monster. But the comic's explanation is just stupid.