Thursday, January 01, 2009

From the Ridiculous to the Sublime: An Americal Carol and Postal

So we didn't do anything fancy for New Year's Eve. Wifey was working and we didn't want to start our new year by throwing ourselves into debt for the sake of a glass of champagne and a late night at some overpriced club.

So instead, we had a buffet of finger-foods, a bottle of Paul Cheneau Blanc de Blancs and a very silly movie marathon. We picked two comedies that appeared superficially quite similar, but turned out to be totally different.

All American

The first was An American Carol.

Directed by David Zucker, the man behind comedy classics like Airplane!, The Naked Gun and Scary Movie 4, An American Carol appealed to me because it was a different type of comedy - a right wing one.

Hollywood has a reputation of being full of air-headed, ultra left-wing windbags like Alex Baldwin, Susan Sarandon and Matt Damon. Therefore, it's quite eye opening to watch their opposite numbers, conservatives like Kelsey Grammer, Dennis Hopper and John Woods, team up for an alternative take on Charles Dicken's A Christmas Carol.

The story features Michael Malone, a very thinly veiled spoof of outspoken filmmaker Micheal Moore, launching his new movie 'Die, you American Pigs!' by trying to get the 4th of July holiday banned. In order to educate him on the true meaning of American patriotism, he's visited by four 'American' spirits who show him what the true meaning of Independence Day.

Because it's directed by the man behind The Naked Gun, Michael Malone's adventures feature plenty of hilarious slapstick comedy. Almost all of the physical gags are hysterical.

What's slightly more hit and miss are the political gags. Subtlety has never been David Zucker's forte and, as a result, the right-wing stuff is laid on thicker than peanut butter on jelly. Watching the ACLU portrayed as lifeless zombies, or a musical number by pot-smoking, America-hating Columbia professors, makes you more likely to roll your eyes than laugh out loud.

That being said, it's all pretty original and will raise a few smirks. The all-star cast does a great job, too.

Kelsey Grammar plays General Patton as a cigar-munching, face-slapping patriot, while Jon Voight is practically unrecognizable in his very stern and serious cameo as George Washington. It's also fun to see country music Trace Adkins - one of the most intimidating men on the planet - cast perfectly as 'The Angel of Freakin' Death' (and launch a Madison Square Garden concert at the climax of the movie.)

For somebody fairly liberal, like me, An American Carol at least justified it's rental price. It's real appeal, though, will be for people who are normally the butt of Hollywood's jokes. With it's unashamed, cheesy admiration for middle America, country music, the armed forces and that curious brand of what Republicans call 'patriotism,' there are going to be some people who'll simply love the chance to see their point of view come up trumps on the big screen.

Going Postal

With it's zany reputation, sort-of star-studded cast and a similar Islamic plot to destroy America, Uwe Boll's movie, Postal, seemed likely to fall into the same mould as An American Carol. Watching it, though, it soon became apparent that nothing could be further from the truth!

Based on the infamous, yet wildly popular video game Postal 2, Postal is the story of the down-on-his-luck 'Postal Dude,' who is fired from his job on the same day he discovers that his morbidly-obese wife is cheating on him while he's away from their run down trailer in the godforsaken town of Paradise, Arizona.

Heading off to find work with his cultist uncle, 'Postal Dude' winds up getting involved in a plot to steal a van-load of micrbe-infected toys, which ultimately sees him on the run from the Taliban, the police, neo-Nazis and the gun-toting vigilante townsfolk.

Postal proudly describes itself as 'disgusting, offensive, stupid' and it neatly lives up to all three of those charges. Opening with a scene on a hijacked airliner that will make you feel very guilty laughing, the movie ends on a scene of nuclear apocalypse, with George Bush and Osama Bin Laden skipping, hand-in-hand, towards the mushroom cloud of a nuclear explosion.

From that description, you can probably tell that Postal is pretty no-holds barred. However, it's also astonishingly funny. Unlike An American Carol, which delivers a steady flow of comfortable chuckles, Postal delivers a few killing blows that literally have you splitting your sides with laughter.

As for the 'sort-of' star-studded cast... Well, watching this movie, you'll be amazed at the number of actors you recognize, but can't actually name. "It's that guy from Beerfest!" or "Isn't that the bloke from Spiderman?" The only 'real' star is Verne Troyer, best known as Mini-Me in Austin Powers. Nevertheless, there are some recognizable faces you'd be surprised seeing in such a controversial comedy.

Plus, an added bonus for readers of Militant Ginger, the protagonist, Postal Dude, is ginger!


Niether of these films was exactly a box-office blast (Postal opened to a grand total of twelve screens nationwide.) But I think they'll both end up as comedy classics - catering to wildly different audiences.

Postal was clearly the better movie - it was subversive, clever and as pessamistic a view on American society as An American Carol was optomistic. But I think An American Carol is the movie people will remember best. It was never likely to succeed with the critics, lambasting Hollywood so sharply, but I think literally millions of right-wing Americans are going to be thrilled with David Zucker's assault on the world their detractors inhabit.


Coffee Bean said...

We just watched An American Carol yesterday! I don't usually enjoy those types of movies but a movie like this coming from the other side is rare. We laughed quite a bit. Of course, it was over the top ridiculous.

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