An American Carol
One of the running gags in An American Carol, a political satire produced in part by right-leaning Hollywood movie stars—and yes, such people do exist—is that a fat, boorish, left-wing filmmaker has won an Oscar for his documentaries but really, really wants to direct a feature film, with a budget and a screenplay and some actors and so on. Whenever Michael Malone (Kevin Farley) tells someone that he once won an Oscar, the other person inevitably replies, "For a documentary," and we can tell, from Malone's facial expression, that he, too, believes deep down that the trophy on his mantle doesn't really give him all that many bragging rights.
The irony is that, in this day and age, with late-night talk-show hosts regularly mining the news for funny, revealing clips, some of the most effective political satires have, in fact, been documentaries. Sure, the films of Michael Moore and others have dropped any pretense of objectivity, and have sometimes played pretty loose with the facts. But if it's politically pointed satire you want, what would you rather watch? Fahrenheit 9/11, with its footage of actual American politicians saying and doing actual silly things? Or Canadian Bacon, with its actors playing politicians and reciting the so-so dialogue that Moore has written for them?
Likewise, An American Carol may be mildly amusing in places if you share the film's political sensibility, but there is nothing quite as interesting here as watching, say, a YouTube clip of politicians contradicting themselves on some policy or other. It doesn't help that the film, co-written and directed by David Zucker (who, together with his brother Jerry and Jim Abrahams, gave the world Airplane! and the Naked Gun movies), is not particularly funnier than Zucker's other, more recent efforts, such as the Scary Movie sequels. Nor does it help that the film, for all its political posturing, feels strangely detached from the current political scene.
Put simply, the film feels like it should have been made six or seven years ago. For one thing, it makes few, if any, direct references to the Bush administration or Iraq; instead, the terrorists we meet in the film's opening reel come from Afghanistan. Zucker and company are at pains to say that the current terrorist threat needs to be met with force, but they pretty much sidestep the question of how that force has been applied in recent years.
So, to the story. The terrorists are alarmed by the rise of democracy in Afghanistan, and they are determined to snuff it out while they can. But because it is getting increasingly difficult to recruit and train their suicide bombers—"All the really good ones are gone," as one of them puts it—they decide to pour some of their opium profits into hiring a major Hollywood filmmaker to produce some films for them. They insist, however, on one thing: that he really, really "hate America."
Enter Malone, who is planning a massive demonstration to abolish the Fourth of July. Just as, in A Christmas Carol, Ebenezer Scrooge hated Christmas and refused to celebrate it with his nephew, so too Michael Malone hates his nation's most patriotic holiday and refuses to celebrate it with his own nephew, who serves in the Navy and is about to ship out to the Persian Gulf. And so three spirits—four, if you count John F. Kennedy (Chriss Anglin), who emerges from Malone's TV screen the same way Jacob Marley appeared in Scrooge's door knocker—come to Malone and take him on a tour of the past, present and future, to show him the error of his ways.