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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)

The comments to this entry are closed.

Um, that trailer wasn't too funny.

Oh please. The record is clear; protestations of "fairness" are absurd. Mel Gibson iblacklisted for The Passion of the Christ. Ditto Andy Garcia for his anti-Castro, anti-Che epic, The Lost City. No doubt Jon Voight is on that blacklist now too. The whole world knows that Hollywood is the cultural enforcerment arm of the liberal elite. And it's a pretty nasty enforcer, too. This Zucker film will probably make huge $$$ (just like The Passion) but Hollyweird will continue turning out money-losing, single-point-of-view liberal epics like "Lions for Lambs." Nobody cares though. With youTube etc., you are quickly losing control of the media, and you'll never regain it. Viewpoints that don't gel with the enforcer elite will find their audiences and even make money doing it -- get used to it.

I saw Zucker defending the film to David Schuster. He seemed very nervous, especially while explaining how they had decided to remove a racist joke about Barack Obama.

I have no interest in the movie, but David Zucker sounds like a coward. If he likes his movie so much, he'll show it to anyone. If he was so worried about the content, he wouldn't have made it in the first place. He's just feeding into the grossly distorted fiction that the "media" has a liberal bias. Right.

I think the near universal praise for Michael Moore's body of work speaks volumes ... the vast majority of film critics are liberal, and they're far more inclined to let Moore's massive distortions slide on by.

Still, I appreciate you bringing up this discussion, and doing so in good faith.

Re: "An American Carol" a liberal, I feel no loathing towards it due to politics. But I watch the trailer and am struck by the fact that Zucker either can't or won't bother to understand the perspective Moore is coming from, so he's pretty much left unable to satirize it. And therefore, as somebody who understands (albeit dislikes) Moore, I just don't find it funny because I'm noticing everything Zucker got wrong. Moore deserves a sendup, but this just doesn't work.

OMG! This movie was so Awesome-O! I just got back and had to change my pants because I peed them I cried laughing so hard at the Rosie O'Donnell character. Lighten-up, go see it!!

oh look, they made a movie for talentless Republican retards..

This was funny and any denial just shows how mental people get over politics. They really needed to have Rush and Franken get in the action, but it wouldnt surprise me if they took that out of the script because of listener backlash. By lampooning Rush you immediately lose 20 million viewers. In lampooning Franken, you would lose another 4, actually 5 if you include his dog.

Gimmie a break. The trailer is not remotely funny. The guy playing Moore gets the Wile E. Coyote treatment (anvils and other stuff hits him in the head, etc.) and that's suppose to be hilarious? Probably to some AWM's (Angry White Men) like those Bill O'reilly types, sure ... fact is, regardless of the film's ideological agenda, Hollywood be it from the Left or Right, have been unable to produce a decent parody movie in years. Look at the crapfest that have been unleashed recently (like 'Disaster Movie' and others like it). Gone are the days when those type of films were actually any good. So Zucker is just doing what the typical conservative types do and he blames the "liberal" media for anything that goes wrong in their world... in his case, for having made such a craptacular film. Thing is, 9/11 was truly a tragedy, no doubt about that... but what is more a trageyd is that such a terrible event made several people who were once funny, incredible bitter. And I include in that list Dennis Miller, radio host Phil Hendrie and David Zucker.

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