An American Carol

  • Review Date: October 7, 2008
  • Rated: PG-13
  • Genre: Comedy
  • Release Year: 2008
  • Running Time: 83 minutes

Common Sense Media says

Right-wing political comedy just isn't funny.
  • Review Date: October 7, 2008
  • Rated: PG-13
  • Genre: Comedy
  • Release Year: 2008
  • Running Time: 83 minutes

Age(i)

2
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Quality(i)

 

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Extensive discussion of political ideas, mostly in order to mock "liberal" political beliefs; topics discussed include school prayer, left-leaning academia, Islamic terrorism, pacifism, the separation of church and state, 9-11, and much more. The film also features a segment of a fake film on "radical Christian terrorists" which suggests that Islam is an intrinsically violent religion in a way that Christianity is not. A blind child is depicted for comedy purposes.

Violence

Frequent, extensive slapstick falls and blows to the head; firearms are used against zombie-like ACLU lawyers; depictions of, and jokes about, suicide bombing. Crosses and bibles are used as weapons. Depictions of wartime violence; footage from World War II. A "dirty bomb" attack on Detroit is depicted. A disembodied set of buttocks is viewed on an autopsy table. Discussion of the 9-11 attack and depiction of its aftermath. A security-screening rectal exam is depicted on screen.

Sex

Kissing; discussions of sexual activity; jokes about promiscuity, homosexuality, cleavage, and lust.

Language

Occasional strong language, including "ass," "s--t," "douchebag," "son of a bitch," "damn," and "balls." A platoon of Nazi soldiers chants "I don't know but I've been told/Kill the Jews and take their gold." A depiction of an America in which the Civil War was never fought involves racial language, including the "N" word.

Consumerism

Some brands are visible, like Big Gulp and Twinkies; Bill O'Reilly and country singer Trace Adkins make cameos as themselves.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Characters drink beer and wine; some drug paraphernalia is briefly visible; cigars are smoked.

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

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?

QUALITY
 

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.

Families can talk 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?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:October 3, 2008
DVD release date: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.

This review of An American Carol was written by

About our rating system

  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

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Quality

Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging, great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging, good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging, good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging, okay learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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What parents and kids say

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Teen, 13 years old Written bytsomfan2 January 23, 2009
AGE
11
QUALITY
 

Hilarious Movie...GREAT VALUES! Go America!

HILARIOUS MOVIE, but also has a strong message of patriotism and points out that most members of the military are pro-peace too, but that sometimes we have to fight for the common good. Imagine if we had refused to fight in WWII because we were against wars no matter the reason. It is debatable Hitler could have won without the Americans fighting him!
Parent of a 11, 15, and 18 year old Written byJulieKryger1970 January 5, 2009
AGE
14
QUALITY
 
Teen, 15 years old Written byJoker15 July 2, 2009
AGE
13
QUALITY
 

Great conservative movie, but with uninspired humor

An American Carol is a funny, conservative comedy which is one of the few movies now a days that represents America as the good side. Conservatives will like this, most liberals will not. Sexual content is mild. We see Michael Malone reaching out to grab two woman's breasts but he is slapped before he can do so. We later hear Malone mention the word Rape, and we see an altered Victoria's Secet ad which shows a model in a burka. We also see a man with his underwear pulled down while an attendant reaches into his butt; we see the side of his butt, and his front area is darkened. The language is moderate. We hear s888 said multiple times, and hear SoB and B****** said once. As for violence, we see Malone either getting stepped on, bonked around, thrown out a window or get slapped in multiple scenes (no blood, but we do see some marks on his face during the second scene where Malone gets stepped on). There is also a scene where zombies are shot constantly, and blood spurts out (not too graphic, played for laughs). Also, Malone drinks and smokes in two scenes, and in another, hippies are seen doing drugs. Conservatives will love this film. The problem with the humor is that is slapstick stuff we've all seen before. It's funny, but it's the same. It's a good comedy overall, but some might not find it that funny. I give it 3 out of 5. It's alright for 13 and up, and iffy for ages 8-12.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Great messages
Great role models

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