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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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Just saw An American Carol, and its so weird watching a movie without the liberal sensibilities sprinkled throughout. The opening scene with the terrorists is hilarious. And the movie makes its points really shows how absurd the left has become. Anyway, I like 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 other lead actors in the film. Its a big risk for them in such an intolerent community.

Just saw this movie and it was awful. I am a conservative and I was embarrassed for us all. I like a good laugh, but these jokes were la-hame. Come on, guys--no matter how you spin it, suicide bombing is not funny. And perhaps a joke or two about Michael Moore's weight would cause a few snickers, but the piling-on of references to his "fat ass" were tasteless.

It wasn't entertainment. It was somebody's personal vendetta against Michael Moore.

I could go on, but I already wasted too much time watching this movie. Please do yourself a favor and see something--anything--else.

Alot of people commenting haven't even seen the movie. I went today with my kids and it was hilarious !! The whole theater was in an uproar, from chuckles to full out guffaws. Amazing how many people pass judgment with no basis in fact. Hmmm, knda scary.

Saw it today. Certainly no epic, but well stocked with good lines and presenting a valuable message. Much better than Ebert review would lead you to believe. Either he was writing an elaborate spoof, taking on the persona of the liberal idiots depicted in the film, or he did not watch the movie, or he is an ignorant fool. Try it, you might like it.

David Zucker's prior directorial efforts were Scary Movie 4, Scary Movie 3, My Boss's Daughter, and BASEketball - all the features he made after splitting with his Airplane/Naked Gun partners. Most of those weren't screened for critics, either, and got panned; finally he's come up with an excuse other than the movie's not funny. The assertion that a conservative comedy can't get a fair shake from critics can be countered by the names Trey Parker and Matt Stone, with whom he worked (on BASEketball): Team America was primarily an attack on Hollywood liberals, but it was funny, even funnier than My Boss's Daughter.

I'm sorry, am I still the only one stunned to read that people did not like "Red Dawn"? For those of us who were kids when it came out, this is a classic piece of histrionic film making. You know it's over the top, but you can't help but love it. Wolverines!

I'm sorry, am I still the only one stunned to read that people did not like "Red Dawn"? For those of us who were kids when it came out, this is a classic piece of histrionic film making. You know it's over the top, but you can't help but love it. Wolverines!

I would LOVE to see a satire of the extreme Liberal movement in our society. A biting, intelligent hard hitting satire exposing the foibles of the extreme left in an intelligent, maybe even controversial manner. But not a spoof. Not another "Scary Movie". This is such an important issue, you don't make "The Three Stooges Meet Bin Laden". It's offensive. The key to great satire is wit. There was no wit in that trailer, no intelligence. One of the best moves Stanley Kubrick ever made was removing the pie fight in "Dr. Strangelove". It would have ruined his satirical masterpiece, no matter what the reason for the cut. "American Carol" looks to be all pie fight.

I saw it and laughed. As with any spoof movie somethings fell flat but i thought it was funny overall.. Personally Ithink that The A-Listers and Hollywood big wigs are sofull of themselves and their egos are so over the top that they wont like it. But hey, who cares. Do they ever actually go and pay the rediculous prices we have to pay to see a movie just so they can fly in their private jets and live in their rediculous mansions and their personal assistant and the personal assistant's assistant can have a paycheck? Thats why the film works. Insulting and polictical garbage for some and good natured jabbing at those who take themselves too seriously for others. What makes news with this one is that its coming from the right instead of the stallworth left... surprise!!!! I loved it and i will pick it up when its released on DVD.

"I just like slapping you," says Bill O'Reilly. Quite. And what about the deleted scene where the slave yells out to a "Barack" slave off camera?

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