A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this independent comedy from one of the directors of Airplane! is designed to articulate politically conservative ideas and criticisms -- specifically alleging that the movie industry is liberal through and through. It depicts suicide bombing and terrorist acts in a broadly humorous light and paints pacifism as a naive, dangerous luxury. There's extensive crude and coarse comedy (including jokes about sex), plenty of pratfalls, strong language ("s--t," the "N" word), and some drinking and smoking.
- Parents say
- Kids say
Conservative propaganda "comedy" that suggests that belief in any ideology other than the Republican party is un-American.
The entire, endlessly repeated messa... Continue reading
What's the story?
At a Fourth of July picnic, a grandfather (Leslie Nielsen) tells a group of children a story that's a variation on Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol: Liberal documentary maker Michael Malone (Kevin Farley, playing a character clearly based on Michael Moore), who's campaigning to abolish the Independence Day holiday, is visited by several ghosts -- including Gen. George S. Pattton (Kelsey Grammer) and George Washington (Jon Voight), who show him the error of his ways and his political philosophy. At the same time, a group of Afghan terrorists have approached Malone to shoot their next "training video," and he's hoping their funding will enable him to make his first feature film and get out of being a "mere" documentarian.
Is it any good?
AN AMERICAN CAROL is an incredibly uneasy mix of broad, slapstick comedy and ham-handed political commentary. For example, a scene mourning the victims of 9-11 is followed within seconds by the film's lead character banging his head repeatedly on some church bells. And the film, directed by Airplane! helmer David Zucker, seems to know exactly how uneven it is, with the characters themselves commenting on unlikely and uneven moments -- like a musical number led by a group of academics commenting on the left-wing "bias" of academia. Star Farley, the brother of deceased funnyman Chris Farley, is a fairly shameless comedic performer, and he throws himself into his pratfalls and stunts with vigor, but he doesn't have the acting skill to make us believe in, or care about, his ultimate transformation.
The film's throw-it-all-at-the-wall-and-see-if-it-sticks methodology results in scenes like a visit to a parallel America in which the Civil War was never fought and slavery is still legal, with the massed slaves singing the traditional Hebrew folk song "Hava Nagilah." There are also jokes about suicide bombing, terrorism, and murder -- and the mix of violence and comedy is remarkably uncomfortable. The contrast is huge; the comedy payoff miniscule. Culminating in a stop-the-bombs finale at a Madison Square Garden concert for America's troops -- and in Malone's reformation from a documentarian responsible for films like Die, American Pigs! to a filmmaker interested in showcasing the greatness of America -- An American Carol has a definite position and point of view, but it doesn't have a lot of laughs.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the cultural clash between liberals and conservatives. How does this conflict play out in the media? Families can also discuss the film's varying tone. Is it appropriate to mix slapstick comedy with depictions of the aftermath of 9-11? Finally, families can talk about the film's central thesis: Is mainstream Hollywood really anti-conservative and pro-liberal? What real-life evidence can you point to on either side of the argument? Do you think the media influences your own social and political beliefs? How?
- In theaters: October 3, 2008
- On DVD or streaming: December 29, 2008
- Cast: Jon Voight, Kelsey Grammer, Kevin Farley
- Director: David Zucker
- Studio: Vivendi
- Genre: Comedy
- Run time: 83 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: rude and irreverent content, and for language and brief drug material.
- Last updated: September 21, 2019
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