Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Moore, the Not So Merrier

An American Carol seemed silly enough back when it came out in 2008. It seems even sillier now in 2010, at a time when most Americans are likely to be far more worried about either getting a job or keeping a job than what some semi-famous documentary filmmaker says about America. Since the film aspires to be a comedy, one would think that this silliness would be a good thing. But unfortunately, for a comedy to provoke laughs, such silliness has to be earned. No one minds laughing at a comedian who gets off a great joke or gets away with an especially daring pratfall. But the comedian who does not seem to care that much whether or not his jokes are funny or his sight gags are humorous is a comedian few people are going to laugh at. Unfortunately, An American Carol seems to have been written by just such a comedian.

Here's the thing: An American Carol was specifically created to poke fun at Michael Moore. I am not a big fan of Michael Moore. I used to be a fan after reading his book Downsize This and for many years after that, I thought it was neat that such a smart writer hailed from my home state of Michigan. But after seeing how blatantly he lied in his “documentary” Bowling for Columbine and how rarely he was called on his lies by political southpaws, I lost faith in the guy. I would like to believe he has good intentions but from an artistic viewpoint, I find his cinematic work suspect.

Yet the idea of an entire movie devoted to poking fun at the guy seems to induce in me more yawns than giggles. Perhaps if the film had had a better writer or a better director -- one would have thought that having the movie directed by one of the directors of the 1980 comedy Airplane! would be enough but it is not -- I might have been won over, but I was not.

At best, the movie brings to mind the old gag about a book in which what was original was not especially good and what was good was not particularly original. Worse yet, it ends up being patronizing to the very type of patriots it is supposed to be supportive of. For example, the film has one character get off a zinger about how bad country music is after deliberately introducing the audience to a country music concert that is supposed to emphasize the importance of patriotism. I suppose we are supposed to consider that country music was sung by an artist who was the great exception to that rule but then again, if the writers thought so little of country music, why end the movie with a country music concert?

For that matter, since when are only country music fans patriots? Are we really supposed to believe that Americans who prefer other forms of music -- especially, American forms of music like jazz -- are not real Americans? And if so, by whose definition?

If the movie had had anything creative to say about the hypocrisies of the left -- and let's face it, there are many such hypocrisies to criticize -- I might have been won over. But instead the movie seems content to illustrate the hypocrisies of the right. Thus, we get a lot of jokes about illegal aliens -- after a decade which has seen a lot of Hispanics of dubious citizen status volunteer for the U.S. Armed Forces in the wake of 9/11. A lot of jokes about the implausibility of Christian terrorists -- at a time when most abortion clinics still worry about pro-life bombers and snipers. A lot of jokes about the hardships many white Americans have had to go through because of increased security procedures -- and yet none about the problems equally loyal Arab or Indian Americans have faced due to racial profiling.

Fine. I get it. An American Carol is supposed to promote a conservative version of what American society should be like, a version they do not connect with director Michael Moore. But many of the Hispanics I grew up with and some of the various African- and Asian-Americans with whom I have worked here in this country are conservative too. They too support the Armed Forces and they too support the traditional family values that white conservatives often treat as their exclusive property. So why are such folks rarely seen in this flick until a group of multiracial military veterans show up toward the end of the picture? Am I supposed to believe that such folks are good enough to die for this country but not to live in it? And if so, why exactly should I be supportive of such an attitude?

I might not like everything Michael Moore stands for but I hate the hypocrisy of this movie far worse. And this from an one-time subscriber to The National Review who once voted for Ronald Reagan.

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