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Screed vs. screed

Enough with the polls. Maybe the only reliable window into the souls of American voters is what they’re willing to line up for and pay $10 to see on a movie screen. In which case last weekend’s box office provides an excellent test case, with two politically antithetically movie satires playing mano-a-mano.

On the right is David Zucker’s “An American Carol,” which, as noted in previous posts, is a variation on the Dickens’s classic featuring a Michael Moore stand-in serving as punch bag for patriotic icons like Gen. Patton, John Kennedy, George Washington and Bill O’Reilly. On the left is Bill Maher and Larry Chrles’s “Religulous” in which believers like George Bush,  a theme park Jesus and assorted televangelists, Jews for Jesus and one US senator provide kindling for Maher’s anti-faith auto-da-fe.

A look at the box office numbers shows, that, on the face of it, the right has eked out a narrow victory, with “Carol” taking in $3.8 million to “Religulous”’s $3.5 million. However, “Religulous” appeared on a third as many screens, so the per-screen average comes to $6,972 for “Religulous” and $2,234 for “Carol.”

Conclusion? The election is too close to call!

Unless you concur with what the pundits -- i.e, critics -- have to say. There, “Religulous” wins in a landslide. “Rotten Tomatoes” gives it a “Fresh” rating of 65% while “Carol” stinks up the joint with a truly rotten 15%

Big surprise, you say -- the critics are all a bunch of hand-wringing, God-hating left wing pansies anyway. Well, not so fast.  Consider, for example, the assessments of the usually reliably right wing “New York Post.”  Lou Lumenick gives “Carol” a brutal 1/2 star review, opening with the observation:

“Even if it weren't three years too late to parody Moore (ineptly played by Kevin Farley), Moore's ridiculous tribute to Cuban health care in ‘Sicko’ is far funnier than anything in this desperately laughless farce from David Zucker (‘Scary Movie 3’).”


On the other hand, the “Post’s” Kyle Smith gives “Religulous” an enthusiastic three star review (true, you don’t have to be religious to be a conservative -- just don’t admit it and try to run for any political office). He observes:  “We know there is no God because Bill Maher is not immediately struck dead...”

But the hardcore pinko rag “The Village Voice” doesn’t agree. J. Hoberman finds the whole thing a little sophmoric,  describing it as “a dog that has more bark than bite.”

Speaking of dogs, what about the film that topped the box office (“Carol” and “Religulous” were #9 and #10, respectively)? “Beverly Hills Chihuahua” took in over $29 million, and the irony of a comedy about a spoiled rich pet unleashed in the mean streets of Mexico City being released the same week that the nation’s economy collapsed was not lost on astute reviewers.

Notes Nathan Lee in that pillar of the Liberal press, The New York Times:”

“As multimillion-dollar frivolities about the pets of the ruling class go, ‘Chihuahua’ is reasonably diverting. As one that happens to be opening in the middle of an economic meltdown, its mere existence feels utterly insane.”

But Anne Hornaday in that other Liberal pillar, “The Washington Post,” is not so sure:

“The economy is in freefall. Congress is a circus of dysfunction and demagoguery. The White House is under investigation for violating the Constitution. Things are heating up in Pakistan.
What we need now is a talking Chihuahua movie!

“Okay, the concept for the movie is admittedly lame, but there's absolutely nothing wrong with watching a passel of adorable pooches wrinkle their brows and bark while human voices come out of their mouths.”

As for Smith in the “Post,” he pretty much sums up the whole relationship between moviegoers and Hollywood, if not the electorate and politicians, with what might be the best lede of the week:

“The film is ‘Beverly Hills Chihuahua.’ The audience is the fire hydrant.”






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Peter Keough tosses away all pretenses of objectivity, good taste and sanity and writes what he damn well pleases under the guise of a film blog.

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