Friday, October 24, 2008

Mixed Feelings about American Carol

It sounded like a great idea for a movie. 

A modern-day retelling of A Christmas Carol, except that “Scrooge” is a Hollywood liberal and Christmas is the Fourth of July. Three American spirits, John F. Kennedy, General Patton and George Washington, visit the famed film-director Michael Malone (a jibe at Michael Moore), to convince him that America is a great country.

However, the movie itself didn’t fully live up to my expectations. American Carol definitely has some fun moments, but the touching story of Malone’s redemption is diminished by the ludicrous slapstick and unnecessary crude humor.

I will say that it was well acted. The second you see Michael Malone celebrating the healthcare system of the “island paradise of Cuba,” it’s hard to tell he’s not the real Michael Moore. Rosie O’Connell was a perfect caricature of infamous Rosie O’Donnell, former co-host on The View. Celebrities like Bill O’Reilly, Trace Adkins and Paris Hilton played themselves to perfection.

Though the impressions were spot on, not all of the comedy was genuinely funny. Often, the attempts at humor veered into overkill. Ironically, the terrorists got the most laughs (the suicide bomber training video was absolutely hilarious). When watching this film, sometimes I laughed and sometimes I had to roll my eyes.

That being said, the message of the film buried beneath the slapstick is quite poignant. Of course, the film’s source material A Christmas Carol is one of the most beautiful stories of redemption ever written, and watching Michael Malone’s gradual transformation is indeed inspiring. Taking the place of Scrooge’s nephew Fred is Malone’s nephew Josh, an officer in the navy. Josh is a proud American, who loves the Fourth of July, whereas Malone attacks American society and the troops in his documentaries. Thanks to the spirits, Malone learns that war is sometimes necessary to defeat evil, and comes to appreciate the courage of American troops throughout history. However, even the emotional climax of the film, where Malone salutes to his son as he departs to fight the War of Terror, is not free from goofy slapstick.

Whether you want to spend the money to see American Carol depends on your personal tastes. If people like Michael Moore, Rosie O’Donnell and Jimmy Carter just irritate you, or if you like slapstick comedy, you will love this movie. If not, you could still enjoy American Carol. I’d give it two and a half stars out of five.

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