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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 wanted to add one thing to my previous statement. The movie does have an underlying undeniable TRUTH. It was pure genius as well as hilarious. It will appeal to both the brain dead idiots as well as deeper thinking and more educated and intelligent individuals. So for anyone to not like this Movie I would have to say they have to be both dumb and ignorant because this movie would be great for either but maybe not both.

The argument by Zucker not to screen to critics is nonsense. There's a lot of conservative humor in SOUTH PARK and they can be funny. Sometimes, THE SIMPSONS tweaks liberals and that can be funny.

In other words, funny is funny, no matter what ideological bent you are. It's just the same reason a lot of studios don't screen to critics these days: they're afraid the film stinks.

My whole family saw this last night. It is great! Lots of funny parts, especially the spoof on ACLU lawyers. I'm glad conservatives can laugh on uptight liberals.

I'm not the biggest fan of Michael Moore, but this movie looks just plain sad. It's made for the likes of Anne Coulter and Sean Hannity, the far, far right. When you try to pass Hitler as a "liberal", exploit 9/11, propose that anyone (except the KKK, a conservative terrorist group, and, during the initial period before the civil war, Abraham Lincoln) thinks we shouldn't have fought the civil war, and entertain the preposterous notion that Moore would abolish the 4th of July really has no sense of the pulse of America.

Critics are not too liberal to like the film. The film is just so god-aweful to even want to like it.

Yes. Too liberal and too dumb.

My husband and I saw this movie on Saturday. I am still laughing. My husband, who is not as "into" politics as I am, thought it was great too. I don't know which part I liked better. The "living dead" ACLU zombies or the Michael Moore character thinking the Cubans were at the boat to see him off. I thought Kelsey Grammer was wonderful as Patton. The only part that bothered me was the language. I don't think it needed all that cussing. I am encouraging everyone I know to go and support this great movie.

The movie is very funny. I just took my 9 and 16-yr old children. Sadly, they did get most of the jokes, as the liberal targets that get slapped around are so pervasive in our culture.

It is funny and worth seeing. Liberals seem to have a wonderful sense of humor, as long as they are not the butt of the jokes. Funny, as they claim to be so 'open minded'.

It is ironic (not funny) for a liberl film critic to claim that he is unbaised. Please - I realize that major newspapers are written at a 4th grade reading level, but that doesn't mean the readers have a 4th grade handle on the facts. Come on Mr. Turin.

Ha-Ha-Haaaaaaa! Just got thru seeing the Flick, it was Hilarious !!
Go see it; a little harsh with the language, but still Funny-Funny-Funny!
Thanks David Zucker; Thanks Kevin Farley... and even Dennis Hopper? Yes, Thanks!

Just saw An American Carol and it so weird seeing a movie without liberal sensibilites or leftist politics thrown in all over the place. The begining is hilarious. And it really makes its points well....is show just how absurd a lot of the left is. Anyway, I liked it a lot, I hope it does well and even if it doesn't, I'm sure a lot of people will buy the DVD. Also a lot of kudos to David Zucker and all the lead actors in the film. It's a big risk for them in such an intolerent community.

Just saw An American Carol and it so weird seeing a movie without liberal sensibilites or leftist politics thrown in all over the place. The begining is hilarious. And it really makes its points well....is show just how absurd a lot of the left is. Anyway, I liked it a lot, I hope it does well and even if it doesn't, I'm sure a lot of people will buy the DVD. Also a lot of kudos to David Zucker and all the lead actors in the film. It's a big risk for them in such an intolerent community.

 
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