It’s a movie genre you don’t hear much about in Hollywood: the right-wing comedy. For that matter, it’s not much of a genre at all.
But it’s exactly what conservative producer-director-screenwriter David Zucker created with “An American Carol.” The gag-filled liberal lampoon stars Kevin Farley, brother of the late Chris Farley, as a scruffy Michael Moore clone named Michael Malone, an infamous documentary filmmaker leading a slapstick campaign to abolish the Fourth of July.
“I didn’t tell anyone, not even my brother John, I had this part,” said Farley, sitting in a conference room chair across from Zucker at Vivendi Entertainment, the film’s distributor. “We wanted to keep it close to the vest. Meanwhile, I’m growing a beard and getting fatter. I had just gone through a divorce, and my brother was like, ‘You need help!”’
Keeping mum is something both Farley and Zucker said they’re accustomed to: In left-leaning Hollywood, conservative political inclinations aren’t popular. In fact, when they first met about the role — Zucker said Larry the Cable Guy and Frank Caliendo were also considered — Farley wasn’t sure if the veteran director knew he was a Republican.
“I think I’ve always been on the right side of things,” said Farley. “I had a dad that was an influence on me. He was part of the Young Republicans at Georgetown University. He then ran for several public offices in Madison, Wisconsin, which is a bastion of left-wing politics. I grew up in the middle of that, so I’m used to being a fish out of water.”
Zucker, who has made over $20,000 in contributions to Democrats over the years, turned to the right later in life.
“It happened gradually for me,” said Zucker, director of the original “Airplane!” and “The Naked Gun” films. “After 9-11, I saw the reactions of both parties. The Democrats were saying, ‘How is this our fault? How are we to blame for this?’ And the Republicans were saying, ‘This is pure evil, and we need to fight this now.’ It made me rethink things.”
Zucker acknowledges the release of “An American Carol” is timed to the election, when politics is a hot topic, but he doubts the spoof, which features cameos from the likes of Bill O’Reilly, James Woods, Jon Voight and — believe it — Paris Hilton, has the power to influence voters. His intention is to inspire laughs, not change political perspectives.
“I’m always looking for new targets,” said Zucker. “In this town, you’re only as good as your last target. First, it was disaster movies with ‘Airplane!’ Then, it was ‘Dirty Harry’ with ‘The Naked Gun.’ And then it was horror movies that were silly with the ‘Scary Movie’ films. Here, we’re finally taking on the excesses of the far left in politics.”
Opening Friday, “An American Carol” mixes the narrative of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” with Fox News fodder. Leslie Nielsen narrates the tale about Scoorge-ish director Malone stumbling through political-tinted fantasy sequences. A slap-happy General George S. Patton (played by Kelsey Grammer) serves as Malone’s patriotic ghost of politics past.
Because the movie was filmed months ago, audiences won’t see timely jabs about the election, although a mention of the Democratic presidential nominee almost made the cut. In what Zucker said might be the film’s most controversial scene, Malone travels to a world where President Abraham Lincoln didn’t fight the Civil War and slavery was never abolished.
In the version of the film screened for this story, Gary Coleman cameos in said scene as a car-washing plantation slave who calls out to an off-camera colleague named Barack. When asked about the reference, Zucker, who co-wrote the film with Myrna Sokoloff and Lewis Friedman, revealed it will be left on the cutting room floor.
“It was the one thing I didn’t think I could defend,” said Zucker. “It’s because of certain things that I know about Barack Obama. I would have left it in if he had really believed war was not the answer, but I’ve read that he said he was only against the Iraq war and he supports the Afghanistan war, unlike Michael Moore, who says he’s against all wars.”
Moore is hardly alone in the film’s crosshairs. “An American Carol” roasts jihadists, Rosie O’Donnell, college professors, Neville Chamberlain, Adolf Hitler, President Jimmy Carter and chanting protesters. One over-the-top sequence finds Malone alongside a judge (Dennis Hopper) fending off a horde of undead American Civil Liberties Union lawyers.
“The intent is not to make people angry,” said Zucker. “To get laughs, you have to deal with outrage. You can’t be mild in comedy. In movies where I’ve been mild, they haven’t been successful. You can be mild on television, but to get people out of their houses and into a movie theater, you have to do something they haven’t seen before.”