It’s that time of the year again when it is required that if you have a movie blog, you are supposed to write about horror movies during the month of October. As I dread and try to get out of watching horror movies for a month, it led me to think about the horror genre as a whole, and why it remains one of my least favorite genres. Horror movies are supposed to scare you, unsettle you, and bring you out of your comfort zone. And you don’t need supernatural element to get there. There are plenty of depressing, repugnant shit involving human without bringing in any paranormal activities. So this year’s Spooktoberfest (III: not in 3D) will be a little bit different: it will be more about movies that scare me personally rather than the traditional horror movies.
Scary Movie #1 is David Zucker’s An American Carol (2008), a reactionary “comedy” fighting back against those “anti-American” Michael Moore documentaries that were all the rage for a couple of years in the 00s. In addition to “comedy,” I would also use “satire” or “parody.” The key is the quotation marks, not the words.
I could also use quotation marks around the words “Michael Moore documentaries” since there is no need for audience to be familiar with the source material. Based on the content of the movie, the filmmakers themselves have never seen a Michael Moore movie. They may have seen clips of his movies and about Moore, but only through Fox News. Of course, the trailer premiered on The O’Reilly Factor, the show all Real Americans watch.
But you can tell this is made by Real Americans for Real Americans with the opening credits sequence set to the song “Sweet Home Alabama.” I don’t remember much about the movie now but I do remember that location is not one of the important things about the movie. One could only deduct that the song is used to earn some Real American points right off the bat. It also indicates the level of creativity we’re dealing with, when this is the most patriotic song the filmmaker can think of, or at least, can get the right to.
Though front and center on the movie poster, the late great Leslie Nielsen only appears in the wraparound scenes. He is the narrative device as Peter Falk in Princess Bride, telling a story to kids at a 4th of July barbecue. He may be doing a personal favor for his old friend Zucker, but one would think that after appearing in Zucker’s Scary Movie 3, Scary Movie 4, and Superhero Movie, his debt to any Zuckers or Abrahams would have been paid in full. He tells the story of a documentary filmmaker named Michael Malone (Chris Farley’s Republican brother Kevin), who criticizes America in his documentaries and therefore, hates America, and therefore, wants to abolish the 4th of July, as all liberals do.
One noteworthy element in this opening barbecue sequence though. We’ve all seen the slapstick bit of Nielsen throwing something and hit some innocent bystanders. It’s as old as the term slapstick. What’s weird here is that this time, he throws a frisbee and it hits the only non-white person at the barbecue, a large black woman. We liberals like to (half) joke that conservatives are racists. It is a whole another thing when Zucker, who became a conservative in 2004, decided to include such a “joke.” Nevertheless, it lays the groundwork for what’s ahead in the movie: people getting hit is funny. This must be some old comedy rule because someone get hit or slapped every five minute in the movie, and it’s supposed to be funny.
And that’s not even the most racially cringe-inducing scene in the movie. As the title suggests, the premise borrows from A Christmas Carol and Malone is visited by three ghosts: Patton, JFK, and George Washington. The offending scene came when Patton (played by Dr. Frasier Crane and Beast from X-Men 3: When Rush Hour Hits the Mutants) shows Malone what happens if there had never been any war in American history and Malone finds out that he would have been a slave owner. It’s a overlong and unfunny sequence that makes you feel embarrassed for all involved (with David Alan Grier and Gary Coleman among Malone’s singing slaves). But then, most scenes in the movie are overlong and unfunny, with a couple being noteworthy for their offensiveness.
You may be wondering how we get from Michael Moore-esque documentaries to hypothetical slavery, and by asking that question it’s a sign that you have the intelligence and logic of someone older than eight years old, and that your sole source of information is not Fox news or talk radio. Let’s see if I can help: see, Michael Malone is against the wars, therefore he is against all wars, therefore he’s also against the Civil War. Since he’s against the Civil War, he is shown what would have happened if that war never happened. See, makes total sense. Slavery would obviously be around if it wasn’t for the Civil War. Conveniently, Afghanistan is mentioned in the movie but not Iraq, and neither are Vietnam nor Korea.
The film takes a lot of leaps like that. There is another scene in a courtroom later on with Dennis Hopper as a judge and the ACLU lawyers as zombies invading the courtroom. It leads to a bloodbath with Patton and everyone else shooting at the zombies. Sounds funny on paper, and it’s one of the least worst scene in the movie. Especially with some of their recent activities, the ACLU is as apt a comical target as Michael Moore. They almost had me going along with the joke when Hopper’s judge complains about having to give terrorist rights and can’t wiretap but then he also throws in separation of church and state in there, as if that’s something that the ACLU came up with.
As painful as the movie is, most of the stars survive unscathed. Most, except for Jon Voight, who plays the ghost of George Washington. He did not mention if there are any treasures hidden in any of our landmarks but he did get to use Ground Zero, a badly done CGI version of it anyway, to show how horrible 9/11 is. Cause you know, anyone who criticize America post-9/11 obviously doesn’t understand the magnitude of what happened. Only Real America would understand. There is also a laugh out loud moment when Voight explains freedom to Malone and dares to mention religious freedom, after an hour of Islamic jokes. IMDB helpfully explains why Voight fares worse than everyone else. Conservative actor Robert Davi also shows up as a terrorist leader, in scenes that could just have been easily taken from a Uwe Boll movie.
An American Carol is made with laziness and a lack of conviction. Michael Moore is no doubt ripe for a parody/satire, whether you agree with his politics or not. But instead of aiming at his tricks and inaccuracies, they settle for endless jokes about his weight and love of food. At times, it feels like they are more anti-documentary than anti-Moore. There are recurring jokes about how no one watches documentaries (similar to how Mother Jones is a magazine that no one reads, after that 47% Romney video dropped). I know Republicans like to repeat lies to themselves and think that say it often enough lies will become facts but it’s no denying that Fahrenheit 9/11 is one of the top grossing documentaries of all time. One has to wonder how Zucker feels now that 2016: Obama’s America is also one of the top grossing documentaries of all time.
One running joke is that Malone wants to make feature films instead of documentaries that “no one watches.” A sharper movie may have used the flop Canadian Bacon, Moore’s one and only fictional feature, as a target. In typical Republican fashion, they seem to be mad at him for criticizing America for all the world to see, rather than doing it quietly and sweeping things under the rug. They are more comfortable with the way the Catholic church, Penn State football, or the boy scout handles things. It’s more about how he makes us look bad to the world, rather than what he does in his documentaries.
Kevin Sorbo has a cameo as George Clooney-ish liberal message filmmaker but they didn’t really want to make fun of Clooney. Sorbo receives an award from Paris Hilton and Simon Rex, which is a step down, even in fake movie award ceremony world, from Weird Al and Vanna White in Naked Gun 33 1/3. Instead of Moveon.org, it’s “hilariously” changed to Mooveon. According to the movie, if you value things like higher education, privacy, human rights, documentaries, music outside of country music, you are anti-America.
I knew there was no way in hell that I would ever agree with this movie. Though that doesn’t necessarily mean that I couldn’t have enjoyed it. The similar Team America poked fun at similar subjects and it was funnier and edgier. It also came four years before the toothless American Carol. I’ve seen plenty of so-called lowest common denominator movies, but this is the first one I’ve seen that pander/cater to the most ignorant and being misinformed is encouraged, all in the name of “patriotism.”