A classic novel, raped.
Liberal documentary filmmaker Michael Malone (Kevin P. Farley) is trying to end celebration of the 4th of July when the ghost of John F. Kennedy (Chriss Anglin) steps out of his television like Samara and tells him he will be visited by three spirits. The first, and only one who’s more than a cameo, is General George S. Patton (Kelsey Grammer), the second is George Washington (Jon Voight), and the third is Trace Adkins. Around this mangling of Dickens’ classic is wrought a story of terrorist Aziz (Robert Davi) hoping to use Malone to further his goals….
When I first watched this film I was ready to dismiss it as another unfunny comedy from David Zucker, who hasn’t been funny in a great while. I had hoped it would be a witty attack on my beliefs that would make me laugh like South Park, but instead I found nothing more than an extended slur rather than something worth seeing. Still, I was going to dismiss it, but then I saw the reaction among fans that sometimes included the words “I learned something.” Since this film was, ostensibly, a satire or parody, I was concerned that anyone would claim to learn anything from it, especially considering how much of it was dead wrong. I’d like to think the errors were to make the movie funny, but I have a feeling they’re just careless idiocy resulting from the combination of an agenda and too many writers. Regardless, I’ve written this as a series of lessons to be learned from this film along with truth when needed.
Lesson One: Prejudice
One thing this film revels in is a wonderful sense of racism, sexism and other delightful things. From the very first scene we find out that all the terrorists are named “Muhammad Hussein” and each one has no real idea what’s going on. They are portrayed as simple sheep who follow their leaders without question until they find that the United States’ way of life has much to offer. This is the same sort of imperialistic nonsense that’s been spread around for years that the terrorists hate the US because of the freedom while also being jealous of the lifestyle. Now, it really can’t be both ways, either they want the US lifestyle or they want to destroy it, which is it? Additionally, we are taught that Afghanistan has to import Mexicans to “do the work the Taliban won’t do” because all Mexicans are illegal immigrants who will do whatever job is placed before them because they’re inferior or something. We even get a heap of sexism in that the few female characters are bubble-headed women on screen to ogle or else parodies of lesbians using the traditional ugly, fat, butch dykes like Rosie O’Connell (Vicki Browne). The film comes dangerously close to parodying the wrong group when one of the terrorists wants to vote to stop same-sex marriage, that’s not what the evil liberals would do at all!
Lesson Two: Rights Should Be Limited
In the world of this film, the Constitution is not a document that guarantees rights, but a piece of paper that gets in the way of killing people. During the protest sequences, the protesters are portrayed as young, ignorant bastards who are being manipulated to push an agenda, but to some extent that’s true of any protest. The treatment of the ACLU – as a horde of zombies that needs to be destroyed to protect America – is particularly shameful given the ACLU’s history of defending the helpless against a state that has unlimited resources and often doesn’t wish to allow the people to have the rights that the state has promised; the courtroom judge (Dennis Hopper) has no problem enjoying his Second Amendment rights while disrespecting the First Amendment and the Fifth (or Sixth) Commandment making me wonder if he really is a True Patriotic Christian. Why conservatives have such a problem with people who support law and order has never been clear to me; I thought it was the terrorists who hate our freedom? Possibly the most offensive part of the film is when George Washington himself claims that freedom of speech should be strongly limited; talk about co-opting a man who devoted his life to bringing freedom to his people! Even the violation of the Geneva Convention – the blindfolded POWs – is treated as a kind of joke as if rights for the captured are unimportant, at least when the POWs aren’t Americans. Again, the film comes dangerously close to parodying the wrong group when Bill O’Reilly is allowed to chide the protagonist for lying by saying he’s dangerous “because you tell the audience what it wants to hear.”
Lesson Three: Patriotism
This film is big on patriotism, huge, bigger even than all the egos in Hollywood put together. From the beginning, we are to understand that the Boy Scouts of America are patriots, despite the fact that they officially do not allow members to be gay or atheist, but who cares, right? The film shamelessly uses Ground Zero (WTC) to show the results of people not being patriotic enough, because … well … yeah. How about the future nuclear attack on Detroit, Michigan? One has to wonder why the hell would anyone waste a nuke on Detroit. There’s also the change of Hollywood to a sort of Jihadtown parody which, if this film is to be believed, Hollywood already is on the inside because of that whole evil liberal Communist plan or something. Of course, this film again screws up by having General George S. Patton offer Michael Malone a Cuban cigar, which, of course, is illegal due to the trade embargo and supports the evil Communist regime in Cuba
Lesson Four: Christianity is Truth
This film takes quite a bit of time to establish that radical Islam is a bad thing while Christianity is a good thing that is vilified by the liberal media. Rosie O’Connell’s movie about “Radical Christians – when did Rosie O’Donnell become a director? – it plays like nothing so much as many of the caricatures of radical Islam that have become so popular. Luckily, in real life there are no Christian terrorist groups, unless you count the Aryan Brotherhood, the KKK or the Army of God, but who cares about that stuff? Having George Washington threaten Malone with Judgment Day is a cheap shot, especially considering Washington’s own position of tolerance for all beliefs and his murky personal beliefs. Washington recognized that religion was something that was good for people, but his insistence on tolerance and understanding would be very disappointing to modern theists. Again, this film seems to forget it’s parodying liberals when it shows a group of US Soldiers praying just as the local militias attack, meaning that God is on whose side exactly?
Lesson Five: Education
In this film, college professors are portrayed as nothing more than leftover 60s radicals and college students as their victims of indoctrination. Interestingly, many colleges are liberal-leaning, but the liberal value of inclusiveness means that every attempt is made to respect the rights and beliefs of others. At almost any college or university there are strict guidelines in place to prevent professors from preaching their own particular ideologies, but there are many times in which these protections fail and so conservative students are more likely to be exposed to liberal ideas than the other way around, excluding certain conservative educational institutions of course. While this is unfortunate, it’s balanced out by the number of churches that violate federal law by preaching from the pulpit. Worse than stating the obvious, this film plays the game of historical revisionism when it shows Neville Chamberlain (Oliver Muirhead) shining Hitler’s (Benton Jennings) shoes, which denies the reality of the situation: the UK was not ready for war and needed time to both prepare and get her allies ready. There’s also the shameful sequence that shows what would have been if the Civil War had not been fought that makes the common error among the ill-educated that the war was fought to end slavery. I wonder if the filmmakers realized that the region they’re making fun of for being backwards, the American South, is the greatest conservative bastion in the whole United States?
Lesson Six: Documentary Filmmakers
All throughout the film, the point that documentary filmmakers are not “real” filmmakers is repeatedly hammered home, because, presumably, they aren’t simple entertainment. We see the audience at the premier of Malone’s latest film sleeping blissfully as he beams at the wonder of it all. We are told that the only reason people watch documentaries is because their teachers tell them to. Leni Riefenstahl, the famous Nazi documentarian / propagandist, is trotted out to show that all documentaries are inherently dishonest. The problem is that since the Nazis were as right-wing as was possible, the only reason they are here is not to show that political documentaries have an agenda – something every fool across the political spectrum should already know – but as a sort of an underhanded way to connect liberals to Nazis despite their opposite political bents; epic Godwin! The whole reason that the terrorists wish to meet with Malone in the first place is to update their terrible recruitment video – which is one of the few parts of the film that wrenched even a smile from me – but that is left by the wayside to set up a terrorist attack at a country-western show for American troops; very sloppy the way everything is tossed aside as the needs of the agenda, rather than the needs of the script, demand it. Despite all documentaries being dull and the claim that they always tank at the box office, this film, supposedly a comedy, didn’t even make its money back. The only thing more amusing than that is the fact that this film, so critical of dishonest documentaries, included a preview for Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed on the DVD. Perfect. This dislike of documentaries, combined with the attitude expressed toward education above, betrays a certain anti-intellectualism that is both sad and worrying.
Lesson Seven: Miscellaneous Ironies
There are two seriously amusing ironies in this film, one related to heath care and the other to military service. At the beginning of the film, we are shown the island paradise of Cuba which offers free health care to her citizens, but there are a lot of problems. This is supposed to be a funny look at some of the misconceptions, or, if you’re less charitable, lies, that many people picked up from the real Michael Moore‘s films, but there’s more to it. When we see the family barbecue in which Malone’s nephew Josh’s (Travis Schuldt) kids, each one is suffering from some sort of terrible medical problem that the family can’t afford to treat, which is sad. Children unable to get medical treatment because of a lack of finances is something that socialized medicine would make impossible; yeah, somebody didn’t think that one through very well. Another funny example, though less so than the previous, is the contention by General George S. Patton that Malone is unpatriotic because he was a draft-dodger by going to college. It’s true that the real Michael Moore never served in the military, which is understandable given his political philosophy, but there’s something else worth mentioning: Kelsey Grammer, despite being a super-patriot, is the same age as Michael Moore and also dodged the Vietnam conflict. Oh dear. Don’t even get me started on Bill O’Reilly who, despite his love of the armed services, also avoided the military.
Lesson Eight: Michael Moore vs. Michael Malone
Michael Malone is, quite obviously, supposed to be a parody of the real-life director Michael Moore. Since this film lacks all subtlety and only goes after low-hanging fruit, most of the jokes made about him are fat jokes, body odor jokes, or his complete lack of attractiveness to women. The problem with making fun of someone for such shallow, base reasons is that all it does is make you look like a foolish, superficial bully. Much is made of Malone’s strong desire to make a feature film which has so far eluded him, but Malone’s model, Moore, has made a feature film more than a decade ago, Canadian Bacon, which was not much of a success, but, oddly, is about a politician who uses war and fear to solidify his power. With three writers working on this film, one would think that they’d have noticed this major error, especially since it was the core reason that Malone was willing to blindly work with terrorists. I guess it was supposed to be funny or something.
This film seems to base most of its comedy on a willful ignorance of anything beyond that which might be learned from conservative talk radio. The problem is that this film is too simpleminded in its approach to comedy and so often seems to be a parody of itself; much like the dreadfully unfunny comic Mallard Fillmore. The film is so sloppily made that, if I didn’t know better, I’d assume that David Zucker was intentionally, and subtlety making fun of wing nuts in the same way that Team America: World Police managed to do; though that film did better because it was able to simultaneously deftly skewer the liberal Hollywood elite. Oh well, the final turnaround for Malone from liberal to conservative reminds me of the old joke that a liberal is a conservative that hasn’t been mugged yet. I suppose what that means is that to convert liberals to conservatives all that needs be done is commit acts of violence upon them, but that’s not the point of the joke. Really, the joke makes the unfortunate observation that many liberals are naïve silly-hearts who have never come up against anything harsh in real life and, conversely, that conservatives are merely people reacting to paranoid fear of everyone and everything. While both of these stereotypes might be true at the extreme right and left, judging from this film’s box office receipts, they seem to be a minority.
The commentary for this film was rather enlightening. A great many scenes were apparently written right before they were shot – this goes a long way to explain the terrible unevenness of the whole film. One of the things that Zucker says, “I think it was funny, but people didn’t laugh at it,” is particularly telling in that he simply can’t figure out why this film bombed so badly. “We took some license with history,” Zucker somewhat reluctantly admits, but only so much as saying that Hideki Tōjō was not present at the Chamberlain – Hitler talks. Finally, there are a lot of quiet parts of the commentary because there’s nothing for them to say.
Except to mention that the film made less than half its money back in theatrical release.