An American Carol
by Jef Burnham
Now available on DVD from Vivendi Entertainment.
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This is the best I can say for writer/director David Zucker’s An American Carol: if you agree with the film’s confusing political stance, or enjoyed the third and fourth installments of the Scary Movie franchise, you will probably enjoy An American Carol. Also, Kelsey Grammar is really funny, but that was established some years ago.
Given the film’s all-star cast, including Grammar, Jon Voight, Dennis Hopper, James Woods, Leslie Nielsen and Kevin Farley as the lead, I had hoped this would be better than the last couple Scary Movies, which Zucker directed. It simply is not. With much the same problem as Scary Movie 3 & 4, the humor seems instantly dated, dwelling on topics that political humor programs like The Daily Show have long since cycled out of their repertoire. When political humor is televised daily, once a film is written, produced, edited and released, it is too late.
Perhaps Zucker was well-intentioned in his attempt to make a topical film, but the film’s straight moments dealing with the current wars and patriotism, clash with the comedy in a peculiar way. Imagine Nielsen’s Lt. Frank Drebin seriously delivering Jimmy Stewart’s monologues from Mr. Smith Goes to Washington and you’re pretty close. It’s just hokey and comes off as being very insincere.
The final message of the movie will leave much of the audience feeling alienated. It seems that if you are against the current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, do not listen to country music, or do not watch NASCAR, Zucker wants you to know that you are un-American. That is, of course, assuming he was writing it from the conservative side. The zany comedy never really lets the audience come to terms with the politics, and it could just as easily be written from the liberal side. Either way, much of the political middle is sure to be offended.
If you are a big fan of Zucker’s or any of the current breed of zany comedies, you may want to give this one a rent; but for me, it makes me wish we could go back to the kind of timeless, classic comedies Zucker and his gang put out in the early 1980s like Top Secret or Airplane!
The DVD release of An American Carol includes 12 alternate/extended scenes and 1 series of outtakes featuring Gary Coleman, a commentary track by Zucker, and interviews with the cast and crew.
Jef Burnham is a writer and educator living in Chicago, Illinois. While waging war on mankind from a glass booth in the parking lot of a grocery store, Jef managed to earn a degree in Film & Video from Columbia College Chicago, and is now the Editor-in-Chief of FilmMonthly.com.
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