William M. Briggs

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An American Carol: review

Go and see it. It’s far from perfect, not always hilarious, cringe-making in parts, but worth two hours of time.

Many of the jokes are groaners, but these are usually followed closely by barely heard zingers. In one scene, following the redemption, our hero is rescued from some violent peace protesters by some soldiers and he is grateful. “Don’t thank us. Thank the recruiters who came to our campus.” Oh, my. Then, very quickly in passing, we see a dumbfounded Columbia student exclaim, “You guys went to college?”

Other moments are worth the price of admission. A terrorist training film displays the benefits of knowing the right address of your target and of showing up on time. A child asks “What’s a demonstration?” and Leslie Nielsen answers “It’s where college students chant what they don’t know, repeating it loudly.” Some Cubans overhear filmmaker Malone say he is returning to the USA (after filming a documentary on that island paradise) and they swarm the boat he is leaving on, trying to go with him: “They must really love me here! They don’t want me to go.” He beats them off with an oar.

In question to the oft-heard “War isn’t the answer” we see what things would be like if Lincoln never fought the civil war as our hero is serenaded by his very own slaves. One of the jokes publicized before the movie came out didn’t make it in the final cut. Gary Coleman, washing a car, tosses a sponge to someone off screen who he now calls “Nelson Mandela.” Eh, not very funny.

It was useful to see the views of the beyond-the-horizon left parodied, particularly through the Rosie O’Donnell character, who produced a “documentary” showing how people fear renegade Christians (well known to be the true perpetrators of terrorism, “Oh no! Not the Christians!”), and who spews loony 9-11 conspiracy theories.

The plot only weakly tries to follow A Christmas Carol, but sticks close enough so you get a rough idea of what is happening.

Towards the end, two terrorists have a change of heart and attempt to disarm a bomb while standing in a bathroom stall. They make many odd, and suggestive, noises while doing so. Some Marines are at the head and overhear the commotion. One gives the other a knowing look. “Sailors,” he says.

I suppose you can’t go too wrong with any movie that starts with Lynard Skynard and ends with Trace Adkins.

I should also note that I saw this movie in Manhattan and that people in the audience were laughing. Loudly. So there is some hope for the country.

12 Comments

  1. As an United States Marine airwinger whose hating the presidential choices this time around (at least Palin is a MILF), and Michael Moore, but lov’n Leslie Nielsen, I must see this movie. Maybe I’ll better understand why I earned the Global War on Terrorism medal/ribbon!

  2. Noblesse Oblige

    October 4, 2008 at 9:41 pm

    Cool, and on target. Except for the last sentence.

  3. Noblesse Oblige

    October 4, 2008 at 10:10 pm

    P.S. Just check a few MSM reviews to make sure they disliked it. No I have no doubt Briggs is on target. Will see it tomorrow.

  4. Yeah, the terrorist training video is hilarious to me. It reminded me of Monty Python’s Flying Circus. The other jokes about college are too funny!

    The scene where the Marines rescue Farley’s character is oddly familiar, but only because I’m one of the few Marines who had just days after receiving a bachelors, ended up screaming “why” in enlisted basic training. Boot Camp no shit made me forget why I decided to enlist. A few weeks later, I realized I loved America, again. Blame it on mortality salience, I guess.

    I just saw the movie with my wife, by the way. I live in Oceanside, California, adjacently south of Camp Pendleton.

    P.S.

    Great blog, Briggs, I was turned on when I took an online statistics course a few months ago.

  5. Stevie:
    Thanks for your service.

  6. Briggs

    October 5, 2008 at 12:50 pm

    Stevie,

    If you wanted wings you could’ve gone Blue. In basic, all our meals were catered and we were allowed to hire marines to do push ups for us.

    About the movie. I forgot to note that Charlie Daniels wrote the song Adkins sung at the end. Every time I hear Daniels I am reminded of a guy I served with from south Georgia, Darrin Westenfeld. He would always be listening to The Devil Goes Down to Georgia or other Charlie Daniels tunes and telling us his plans of how, if the Russias ever attacked (this was the 80s), they damn sure had better not try and land in southern Georgia. The good old boys would take the trees and pick ’em off one by one, Red Dawn style.

    He must have been right because, you know, the Kremlinites never did try.

    I’ve read a few other reviews of the movie from the pros and I haven’t found any that pointed out the funniest scenes. Most try to show where the movie stepped from comedy to overt political messaging. This isn’t wrong, but you never, ever see this kind of criticism applied to Standard Belief movies, where the bad guys are always the military or the police (the officers, anyway), or men who run a business that has more than 50 employees or who is Christian (other religions are OK).

    A lot of people hated the Lefty Professor Line Dance scene. When my number one son was in college (about four years ago), a friend of his had to take an indoctrination—excuse me, cultural studies—course (Hunter College). The female-type professor walked in first session, uncorked a bottle of rum, and then liberally sprayed the class with it and shouted, “This is the smell of white supremacy!” It went downhill from there.

    If you can’t understand what she was trying to say, then you haven’t got the mind for higher education.

  7. Stevie – I joined the Air Force so I could fight wars from the closest Holiday Inn to the front lines. Re: The movie. An on-the-street interview had almost everyone applauding the film whereas one sour-looking guy said it was terrible. When asked why he went to see it, he replied that he was only there to write review! He reminded me of the restaurant critic in Ratatouille – before his transformation. No wonder critics aren’t worth reading. If it was about homosexual cowboys, he would have applauded it and the public would have stayed away in droves just as they shunned Brokeback Mountain here in my town. Them as can do, them as can’t criticize (to paraphrase a well-known critique of teachers). To bring this back to the general theme of this website, “What percentage of critics can we believe?” Or is that too small a number for meaningful calculation?

  8. Thanks to all who thank me for serving. But I’m not actually much in harm’s way, at least anymore. I’m finishing up more indoctrination, I mean, education (I’m receiving a Masters in Psychology with an Organizational focus at Walden), but I have no Combat Action Ribbon. I’ve got an old college buddy who joined the Corps, but he went the ground route. He did two pumps in Iraq and then showed me some crazy pictures. It’s weird. He’s taking pictures and there’s a firefight going on, what?

    Anyway, Briggs… Are you serious about the rum incident? That’s ludicrous. If not, I get the example.

  9. Saw it Friday night. It’s uneven, the first 20 minutes are great and the last 10 are good as well. They seemed to run out of gas a little after the first ghost appeared, but in the beginning the jokes came so fast they almost stepped on each other.

    I really liked Kelsey Grammer as Patton, and Voight’s Washington was a fairly serious take during a somewhat weighty part of the movie. I couldn’t help but believe that other than being a movie conservatives will enjoy, it’s not a vehicle that will change many minds. The plantation scene is offensive, it’s designed to be offensive but I can’t help but believe that some fence-sitters in the cultural divide will be offended by it without realizing the bigger message — that some things are actually worse than war.

    The kids with the medical conditions I didn’t get. The scene at the courthouse I got completely.

    Still worth a couple of hours, I agree with Dr. Briggs. When the Farley character “gets it” at the end during the Trace Adkins song, and the scene at the dock were actually borderline-emotional, at least for me. It’s obvious the actors, writers and producers have great respect for the people who raise their hands and serve in the armed forces, and that’s never a bad thing.

    I hope it makes more money than Redacted, Lions for Lambs, Stop-Loss and In The Valley of Elah put together. It didn’t beat the Chihuahua movie, but this is still America we’re talking about. According to this site it did beat Bill Maher’s movie, which is good enough for now.

  10. Noblesse Oblige

    October 5, 2008 at 9:06 pm

    My wife and I enjoyed it today in San Diego. I’ll warrant that the film’s world is less stupid and whacko than the world it lampoons. And like previous Zucker films, it had its moments of brilliance and moments of raw over-the-edge. At its best it held up a mirror for us all. I’m glad he made it.

    When we left the theater in mid afternoon, there was a deafening jet roar overhead. I looked up to see an F-22 Raptor, a F-16 Falcon, and a P-51 Mustang flying low overhead in tight formation. (The Miramar Air Show was only a few miles away). It must be an omen.

  11. Briggs

    October 6, 2008 at 4:52 am

    Stevie,

    The rum story is 100% true. Unfortunately.

    I keep trying to get my son’s friend to write up what he experienced in the class. If I can finally twist his arm, I’ll post it here. He should be graduating this year.

  12. Matt:
    The culture studies story should include, if possible, vignettes from the most recent class participants. Pieces from transcribed audio recordings would be priceless.

    We had an intern the year before last from Harvard – he related similar stories from his art history class where pedophilia was excused for those with artistic talents!!

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