An American Carol

 

Crimes:

• Tackling the fatuousness—and the fat—of Michael Moore via the fictional "Michael Malone," a documentary filmmaker whose attempts to ban Independence Day are thwarted after three patriotic ghosts visit him

• Vacillating over whether Malone is merely a trumped-up celebrity created by the liberal media, or a dangerous demagogue with legions of blinkered followers

• Advancing a broad, insulting analogy between people who question the Bush administration's tactics in the war on terror, and people who would've appeased the Nazis, or prevented Lincoln from freeing the slaves

• Mocking liberal professors and venal Hollywood types with the subtlety and fine detail of a Mallard Fillmore cartoon

Defender: Director/co-writer/co-producer David Zucker, co-writer/co-producer Lewis Friedman, and star Kevin Farley

Tone of commentary: Gap-filled and sheepish. Early on, there are several long pauses followed by awkward resumptions, as though some comments had been excised. But even when the trio does talk, they steer clear of any overt political statements, instead ripping on each other and the movie's failure so vigorously that it's hard to know how seriously they take anything the movie says. Maybe that's because Zucker—An American Carol's mastermind—stays relatively silent, letting Friedman mock him for things like inserting his signature portrait of Davy Crockett "instead of jokes." Friedman, whom Farley describes as "to the left of Castro," apparently signed onto this project because he likes to get paid to riff, and he can't stand Michael Moore. Referring to the public response to the movie, Friedman quips, "I said to my mom, 'I guess I'm the black sheep of the family now.' And she said, 'No, you do a lot of good things too." Friedman also gleefully notes every gag he came up with on the set on the day of shooting, saying, "We write these things for ourselves, which is a good thing, because as it turns out, we were the only ones who went to see it."

What went wrong: Well, the first day of shooting went great. After that, the production ran into trouble, as the cast, the crew, and the writers kept questioning each other. Friedman describes a diner scene that was playing to stony silence on the set—Zucker: "Usually the crew laughs, even if it's a mercy laugh."—before he came up with the bright idea to have one terrorist continually push a fellow terrorist face-first into different plates of food. Friedman also ridicules a line Zucker wrote about Malone/Moore: "'The people who like your movies don't go to movies…' I never understood that line, because people do go to his movies."

An American Carol's right-wing backers were reportedly happy with the dailies they were seeing, but when the movie was test-screened in Texas, audiences were perplexed. They found the scene where General Patton shoots zombie ACLU lawyers too mean—"Didn't they get that the lawyers were zombies?" Zucker wonders—and they found some of the jokes too raunchy. So Zucker and his team cut a lot of material in order to appeal more to social conservatives, who, Zucker moans, "stayed home in droves." Describing Zucker's mindset throughout the shoot, Friedman says, "You kind of yelled a lot." Zucker: "Well, directing's tough." Friedman: "It is tough. And if you have to direct and you're a dick, it can be so much tougher."

Comments on the cast: Beyond making fun of Kevin Farley for being low on their list of choices—"We couldn't get Frank Caliendo," Zucker cracks—and pointing out that country star Trace Adkins come up with the idea to call Farley's character "turdhead" all on his own, the commentators spend most of their time weighing the political leanings of their various guest stars. Leslie Nielsen "is a liberal… but some might say he's too liberal when it comes to accepting movie parts." Kelsey Grammer (who played Patton) is a conservative, but still balked at having to say the line "Enjoy your privacy rights in hell!" until the writers softened it by having him note that privacy rights are great, except when they're "interfering with survival rights." Jon Voight (playing George Washington) is so conservative that he worried Zucker and company were making Farley's character too sympathetic. And as for Dennis Hopper… Well, according to Zucker, "Dennis can't remember what he is."

The creative team were also impressed that Paris Hilton pronounced "Riefenstahl" correctly, and they observe, "Bill O'Reilly does this thing with his face that some people would consider a smile, but I don't think you can call it a laugh." And they thank David Alan Grier, whose presence they believe gave them "cover" in the plantation scene. Friedman: "Even Sinbad turned us down." Zucker: "And Frank Caliendo. Again." Friedman: "We were going to put him in blackface."

Inevitable dash of pretension: Zucker notes that the scene with a wacky Hitler is "an homage to Mel Brooks." Friedman retorts, "I thought it was an homage to Hitler."

Commentary in a nutshell:

Zucker: "Here comes the plot."

Friedman: "We should put on the screen in big letters, 'Good scene to follow.'"

Farley: "But this scene really isn't all that great."

Friedman: "No, this scene isn't."