You don’t have to be a right-wing conservative political enthusiast to enjoy this pro-military mockumentary; audiences might even enjoy a few additional self-inflicted jabs if they’re not.
Michael Malone (Kevin Farley) is an award-winning documentary filmmaker who has made his living with questionable re-enactments and harsh finger pointing, turning “American values” on their head as evidence of a war-mongering nation that should talk every enemy down instead of fight them. While critics and college professors praise Malone’s point of view, impressionable youth are only getting one side of the story, and it’s up to three spirits to show Malone that “the price of peace is eternal vigilance.”
There are two faces of this film: the film’s entertainment value and also its obvious conservative agenda. Airplane! director David Zucker both writes and directs this film, something he hasn’t done in a while, and while it may be his passion for the subject, it’s easily more entertaining than either Scary Movie 3 or 4. The message portion of the script has more than a few heavy-handed but entertaining moments (like mindless ACLU zombies mobbing a courthouse to tear down the Ten Commandments), but the message is one missing from virtually every Hollywood powerhouse war film in recent memory. Sometimes the enemy sees peace talks as a weakness, and they’ll give you all the time in the world while they’re looking for a place to stick the knife in. Until someone experiences being in the presence of someone with these kinds of convictions, it’s easier to believe they don’t exist and that there’s always a peaceful solution.
Borrowing from the self-aware formula used in Bill Murray’s Scrooged, the not-so subtle character of Michael Malone is a hard sell, fully aware of what the point is and willing to go along with believing that point will never hit home. The film is also neither afraid to offer up 9/11 imagery or to suggest that a passive America would become not only an easy target but easily subverted into values of a religious-extreme conservatism (which of course invites more silliness, such as Victoria’s Secret new line of full-body burkas).
The message is about sovereignty, and while it’s a worthwhile pursuit to help fix the world’s problems and believe no one could be jealous of a generous-because-their-wealthy-and-powerful nation (hint hint), failure to understand that a strong show of force and a willingness to use it is akin to claiming ownership of something merely because you have the ability to keep it. I other words, if you truly believe that no one wants what you have or would harm you to take it for themselves, why do you have a lock on your door? Is it really so hard to apply that concept on a global scale?
The performances are what drives the film, particularly Kelsey Grammer’s turn as General George S. Patton, dragging Kevin Farley’s Malone from scene to scene while trading barbs throughout. Farley captures the spirit of Malone’s obvious inspiration, but mostly reacts to pratfalls and sight gags targeting the character. Jon Voight’s eerily solemn George Washington comes dangerously close to grinding the film to a halt, used in tandem with the 9/11 reference to give the film weight. Additional bits by Kevin Sorbo, James Woods, Dennis Hopper (as a pro-gun judge defending his post), and of course Leslie Nielsen all get their jabs in, and while country singer Trace Adkins’ part as the Angel of Death wasn’t much, he does intimidate in that special WWE Undertaker kind of way.
Is the movie timed and targeted for the upcoming elections? Of course it is, and just ahead of Oliver Stone’s upcoming George W. Bush film. Whether or not the message is correct or clear, it is thought provoking as well as entertaining. Being a David Zucker film, also expect plenty of distasteful and racially-charged jokes, too (you didn’t think Zucker was going to sugar-coat a spoof just because it has an agenda, did you?) And speaking of agendas, you may also notice that the women in the film are little more than props (presented in matched pairs as often as possible) and portrayed only as dedicated housewives or brainwashed followers. Okay, fine, I’ll also admit to laughing every time one of the crippled kids got smacked down or knocked over, but that doesn’t make me a liberal, right?
(a three skull recommendation out of four)