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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'm all for fairness. I think even wingnuts should be able to go and enjoy a movie every now and then.

Poor Chris, to have his brother picking off his bones.

In Hollywood, bad reviews trump politics. But in this case, since Zucker decided he'd rather have a movie that appeals to the far right instead of appealing to everyone, I guess he would rather blame the media for his making an unfunny and unbalanced movie than just admit he let his politics get in the way of making a movie that red and blue state movie fans could appreciate.

David Zucker obviously doesn't have the courage of his convictions. If his movie was truly something everyone would have found something funny within it, he'd have dared critics to find something wrong. Instead, ironically considering the movie's premise, he took the coward's way out.

Of course, most critics are liberal, and of course, they allow their politics to determine whether they think something is funny or not. Most of them haven't even realized yet that a large part of Rush Limbaugh's appeal is his song parodies, topical sketches and joke commercials, many of them hilarious. To realize that, they'd have to actually listen to him at least once.

Zucker did the only smart thing. Critics would do everything they can to kill this movie. If you don't think they allow their politics to determine their reviews, I'd suggest you click on Roger Ebert's review of "Flash of Genius" and spend the first two or three paragraphs absorbing his boiling anger at George W. Bush and evil capitalist corporations. Many of his more recent reviews have been nothing but hatchet jobs on Bush, Sarah Palin or Republicans in general. You'd think you were on the New York TImes editoral page. Try not to think about the fact that the events of "Flash of Genius" happened over a long period of years before Bush even took office.

I suppose I should also mention that I'm a fulltime professional comedy writer myself, proviing material to radio stations worldwide for over 15 years. Thank God I'm in radio,where I can skewer everyone who deserves it, rather than working with my friends in TV, where making a well-deserved joke about Barack Obama (the black Sammy Glick) could cost you your career.

I am the reviewer quoted in this article. To clarify, while I appreciated the film's political content, my review emphasizes that the film works on comedic grounds and is enhanced by solid performances (especially from Kevin Farley). There have been conservative "comedies" that did not make me crack a smile. As I wrote, "David Zucker did the audience a favor by not making a conservative film with jokes but a comedy that happens to be conservative."

If you enjoy the Zucker-Abrams-Zucker style of comedy, you will probably enjoy this film, unless you really ARE too liberal to like "An American Carol."

My review:

Michael Moore loves this country in that it has made him extremely wealthy - but his heart belongs to Cuba. Most of the media is so biased to the left that people can trust almost nothing in the news these days - it's frightening. For example - if you do the research you'd find that most of wall street is not republican, but democrat because it is politically and financially advantageous for them - the democratic majority in the senate is also obscenely wealthy. Noam Chomsky is also crazy rich along with all other prominent liberals. And then there's Hollywood - a cesspool of millionaire socialists who think they speak for 'the working men and women of America". {Except the 70% of Americans who believe in a God and don't want half their income given to the government} This "What bias?" attitude is just further proof that bias flourishes. This was a light-hearted film, not a one-sided anti-Bush diatribe, which is refreshing after all the endless hate and whining from the left. And unlike Moore's films, making this one actually took guts.

Pleas get over you, are we so far gone were not able to find humor and let it go at that. Dissect it if you must. Remember the old proverb; The higher you climb up the ladder, the more people can see your arse.

FYI Just incase you need help.
Flesch Reading Ease 91.8
Flesch-Kincaid Grade level 3.1

Oh, please. Blacklisted. Right. Andy Garcia has done TEN movies since THE LOST CITY three years ago. That's five more than Tim Robbins, four more than Sean Penn, and three more than George Clooney. Mel Gibson is starring in THREE different movies in various stages of production right now. Jon Voight works constantly, twelve films in the last four years, even though his politics have been well known for years. You really think Kelsey Grammer, a very prominent Hollywood conservative, has been blacklisted, with seven films and nineteen TV episodes in the past four years? Shoot, there's nobody more conservative in Hollywood than Gerald McRaney, and they put him on THE WEST WING, for crying out loud. Blacklist, my eye.

Many comedies made by liberals reveal all their gags in the trailer and the rest of the movie is often pap. In American Carol, the funniest vignettes are saved for the theater. Everyone at the showing I attended yesterday seemed to enjoy it, judging from the laughter. The funniest parts are what Zucker does with the actual Hitler propaganda films from the 1930's; how he makes liberals look like a fool in front of Hitler and Mussolini; the academic brainwashing that goes on at Columbia University and other liberal universities which is the same old thing from the 1960's, and what American life would be like if Lincoln and the Republicans had not freed the slaves and had not fought the Civil War (Liberals: "NO war is worth fighting.). There are plenty of sight gags concerning Muslim terrorists and illegal aliens as well. I don't blame Zucker for not pre-screening the film so it could be bashed in advance politically by liberal critics--in the long run, the movie is actually ABOUT those critics and their ilk. Hopefully we'll see more such films in the future, not only in comedies, but in dramatic stories as well.

Loved the movie for taking a swing at Hollywood and all the self rightous liberals out there. A good history lesson if people would stop and listen and stop being Democrats or Republicans. It showed how idiotic the colleges are and how they brainwash people. There was a lot of laughing during the movie and applause at the end. I made note of the stars appearing in this. Thank God there are still some people with morals and love of country in Hollywood. Michael Moore makes his movies to make money in the country he detests. Coming from Flint Michigan, I know personally how much of Roger and Me was total lies.

The truth is in the reviews from people who actually watched it. I saw it and I hate to be the one to break it to conservatives and liberals was the funniest movie I have ever seen! The humor was..I'm laughing just thinking about it.. It was the funniest thing (movie, joke, comic routine included) that I have ever seen. And the audience obviously thought the same thing as evidenced by the roaring laughter and standing applause at the movie theater. And for those of you that live in California, applauding a screen is NOT normal in the heartland of America. (Tha's was previously only a California thing)

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