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Patrick Goldstein and James Rainey
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Are critics too liberal to like 'An American Carol'?

It is common practice for Hollywood studios to release movies without screening them in advance for critics. In recent weeks, a host of films have hit theaters without being shown to reviewers, notably "Bangkok Dangerous," "Tyler Perry's The Family That Preys," "Babylon AD," "Disaster Movie" and "My Best Friend's Girl." Some do well, others fizzle, but the studio reasoning is almost always the same--if you have a dog, why ask for fleas? (The critics being the fleas.) If a movie has playability problems, studios would prefer to get as many unsuspecting moviegoers to see it before they read a review as possible.

David Zucker's new comedy, "An American Carol," opens today without being screened for critics either. But for a very different reason. The film, a retelling of the old Scrooge story, has an openly conservative message, starring Kevin Farley as a Michael Moore-style filmmaker who wants to abolish the Fourth of July. I had an e-mail exchange with Zucker this morning, who said the film hadn't been screened for critics because its distributor, Vivendi Entertainment, was convinced that most film critics were way too liberal to possibly give it a fair shake. 

"The educated guess is that those that don't like the politics will tend to label the film as 'not funny,' " Zucker explained. "Those audience members who don't care about, or do in fact agree with the politics, find the film 'hilarious.' We were advised that most reviewers don't agree with the politics, which put the movie at risk."

Laetzucker Is that really true? Even if we agree, for the purposes of Zucker's argument, that a substantial majority of film critics are politically liberal (as we might agree that a substantial majority of leading Wall Street investors are Republican), does that necessarily mean that those critics wouldn't give "An American Carol" a fair shake simply because of its conservative politics? It's a hard question to answer, since truthfully, there isn't really much of a sampling of openly conservative filmmaking to analyze. Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ" was embraced by religious conservatives, but it was a film rooted in faith, not politics. John Milius' 1984 film "Red Dawn" was an openly conservative fantasy about communists invading the U.S., but it would be hard to pin its unenthusiastic reception solely on reviewer bias, since rank and file moviegoers didn't love it either.

On the other hand, I'd argue that liberal critics didn't give "Dirty Harry" a fair hearing, being too appalled by its vigilante-style violence to appreciate its black humor and bravura filmmaking. I asked our film critic, Kenneth Turan, what he thought of Zucker's concern about political bias:

"It's awfully convenient for David to believe that critics would be biased, but I don't think it's true," says Turan. "I think I could recognize good work, no matter what the political orientation. I've laughed at conservative, anti-Obama political cartoons even though I don't agree with their political bent. I think David's selling critics short. But we live in a free country, so David's free to believe what he wants."

Unfortunately, by shutting out the critics, Zucker will never know for sure, since a refusal to screen a film is such a bad sign that it usually turns into a self-fulfilling prophecy, with critics assuming the movie is damaged goods. Zucker did show the film to FrontPageMag's Ben Johnson, a conservative blogger, who--surprise--loved it, saying it "exposes every pseudo-intellectual pillar of Hollywood wisdom on the war on terror--Samizdat with a smile." Of course, maybe Ben was biased too. Maybe he just liked the movie because it makes fun of Hollywood liberals. Let's face it, they're a pretty good comedy target.

Here's the trailer from the film, so judge the comedy for yourself:

Photo of director David Zucker (left) and actor Kevin Farley by Ric Francis/ Associated Press

Comments () | Archives (53)

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I thought this movie was disgusting! It made conservatives look more ridiculous than liberals. Instead of just making Michael Moore look like an idiot, (which it did), it also made conservatives look like idiots. It could have been so much better! The kids in the movie had more lines with cussing than the adults. I can't believe the parents of those children gave their approval for their kids to have such foul mouths.
This movie does not help the Republicans at all! It completely distorts what we stand for. I honestly think there had to be some left wing liberals giving advice on the set, knowing we would come off looking utterly idiotice!


For the first time, I'm proud to ba a Hollywood movie goer...hehe

read about the real GOP and the DEMs

>Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ" was embraced by religious conservatives, but it was a
>film rooted in faith, not politics.

Given the close ties between politics and religion, Mel Gibson's movie perfectly demonstrates that liberal critics will fail to appreciate the move. Furthermore, I believe a person's concept of humor is closely tied to that person's concept of truth and normalcy. That I think explains why my liberal friends didn't understand the humor in "Politically Correct Bedtime Stories," and also why they think hillariously funny Ann Coulter is "filled with hate."

I saw "An American Carol" today and it was funny and awesome! I think everyone should go see it. There are some thought provoking messages in this movie that hopefully will make some people think, especially the way left liberals. I laughed a lot watching this movie, which is what is, needed right now.

Did it ever occur to Zucker that a movie can be both conservative AND awful?

And in this case, there's a good chance that it's awful because they focused too much on delivering a right-wing political message instead of on making a funny movie.

I've only seen the commercials, but it appears to be a one-joke movie, an endless political attack on one guy with a camera who has obviously pissed off these conservatives so badly that they were willing to waste millions of dollars in an attempt to get vengeance. And they are so desperate that their idea of vengeance is slapping around an actor who happens to LOOK like Moore... somewhat pathetic, when you stop and think about it.

Um, does it make me a liberal if I think this movie looks as bad as any other poorly conceived spoof?

Everyone except for the media knows that the media, critics included, are biased way to the left. A film like this could never get a fair shake with the critics. They're so far left they think the middle is conservative.

Yeah right. The title of this article asks if critics would like a type of humor that, well, is really weird to see. Bill O'realy and Rush Limbaugh are not known for their comedic skills. I mean, this movie would be huge in 2003 or 2004. Now is just sad and reminds most Americans of a time we would rather forget. Is only centered in Michael Moore for once so the joke probably gets old after the first 30 minutes.

I'm a progressive liberal and thought the trailer was hilarious. One thing prevents me from really emjoying it though: Michael Moore, however wacky you believe him to be, LOVES this country. Everything he does is based in a genuine adoration for what the US is supposed to be -- a place of liberty, justice and equality for all. Believe me, Mike's the last guy who would want to abolish the Fourth of July Independence Day celebration. That being the case, it makes the rest hard to swallow. But it is funny!

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