An American Carol

by

Let’s get the bad news out of the way first.  This is not a good movie as it was shown today.  It may be that there are additional scenes filmed that will be included in a new edit to be released on DVD that will improve the flow, but the print that I saw tonight felt more like a mashup of two extended Saturday Night Live skits instead of a feature film.

Overall the film feels rushed even though individual scenes feel pretty good and some ran a bit long.  This gives me hope that a DVD release may help if they can rework the film a bit to improve the flow.  Perhaps uneven is a better description than rushed.  Remember though that we’re still talking about an extremely broad comedy that is far closer to Commedia dell’arte than Oscar Wilde; so perhaps I’m making too much of it.  On to the good things.

If you’re not expecting a particularly good film, there’s a lot to like about this movie and it’s great entertainment.  The Blues Brothers, for example, is not a good movie but is tremendously entertaining.  Casting is spot on, the acting is first rate throughout and the direction seems competent.    The opening scene has music by Lynyrd Skynyrd and the credits roll to Trace Adkins, but in between is mostly good orchestral film score material.

I expected the screen time for the ghosts to be more even and was therefore disappointed that Washington was limited to one scene.  Fortunately, it was the best scene in the film and also the most serious.  Most of the film was carried by Kelsey Grammer playing George Patton, a job to which he is remarkably well suited.  He carries the role with strength, conviction, and a touch of humor.  Kevin Farley is a little too cynical as Michael Moore Malone.  Bill O’Reilly plays himself to excellent effect, Dennis Hopper owns his role, and Trace Adkins delivers one line very well.  I suspect that line will become a call and response for conservatives in uncertain circumstances.

The movie would have worked better for me as either a straight satire without the slapstick or as a standard Zucker physical comedy.  There’s plenty of material to support either one and there are great scenes for each.  It’s the combination that doesn’t play well for me.  I like vanilla custard and bratwurst; just not together.  If you have a chance to see it this week you should do so because it won’t be in theaters after Thursday.  You’ll laugh until you cry at some bits and that’s more than I can say for anything that Michael Moore has ever produced.

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