An American Carol

 
(i)

 

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

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.

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.

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Parent Written bySecretary Of War June 26, 2014
 

Conservative propaganda "comedy" that suggests that belief in any ideology other than the Republican party is un-American.

An American Carol is a failed attempt at Conservative comedy, and carries all the hallmark traits of Right-Wing propaganda. The entire, endlessly repeated message of the film is that humanistic "liberal" people are just wrong about everything and they're ruining the decent god-fearing, gun-loving "conservative" values that America supposedly built upon. This film has only one purpose, which is propaganda. Politically naive children and teens (and probably adults) should be steered away from this film at all costs, because it portrays wildly inaccurate depictions of people on both ends of the American political ideological spectrum, as well as alluding that African-Americans were better off as slaves and an overall skewed version of America's history. I can't even recommend this film as an example of well-made propaganda (like many of the terrific short films of the 1950s). The filmmaking, acting and storytelling is all sub-par, and the Zucker Brothers (who made such comedy masterpieces as Airplane! Top Secret! and Police Squad!/Naked Gun) should be ashamed of themselves for what I hope was just a quick paycheck (as opposed to having these reprehensible beliefs themselves).
Parent of a 6, 15, 15, and 17 year old Written by79awesome August 26, 2013
 

Not that good

It was ok but less funny. It was boring as well dont get me wrong there were some funny parts but it was boring.
What other families should know
Great messages
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much consumerism
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Teen, 17 years old Written byHoodedAce October 9, 2012
 

Very funny. Cleverly pointed

This is one of my favorite movies. It's a very funny look at the inconsistencies of the liberal position. I saw it when I was 9 years old and have loved it ever since. Not to say it doesn't have issues. The language is rather high for a PG-13 and there are a few instances of innuendo. But the movie itself is really funny Lines: "We can't just shoot people" says Malone the Gen responds with "THOSE AREN'T PEOPLE THEY'RE THE ACLU!" The Rosie "Radical Christian" scene is off the wall. A perfect satire of liberals' raging hatred The "slave" segment is another brilliant scene. A word of warning. This type of humor appeals to a very specific sense of comedy. If you don't think "Napoleon Dynamite" "School of Rock" "Nacho Libre" or Chris Farley are funny this won't amuse you
What other families should know
Great messages
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking

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