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“An American Carol” is coming to a theater near you, whether you like it or not.
A zany comedy that promises to offend Hollywood’s liberal sensibilities — coming just one month before the presidential election — there’s more riding on “Carol” than one might expect.
For one, it’s the first wide release distributed by Vivendi Entertainment, which launched as a theatrical distribution company in March. Vivendi will open “Carol” on 2,000 screens Oct. 3.
And “Carol” is the first theatrical production from Mpower Pictures, the studio co-founded by Mel Gibson’s longtime producing partner Steve McEveety.
It’s loosely based on “A Christmas Carol,” only instead of Ebenezer Scrooge learning an appreciation for Christmas, a Michael Moore-type filmmaker who is visited by the ghosts of George Washington, George Patton and President Kennedy must learn to appreciate the USA.
“Carol” isn’t the only politically charged film set for wide release before voters head to the polls Nov. 4, but it’s the only one making fun of Democrats.
“If the grass-root Republicans come out, this movie will be very successful,” said actor Robert Davi, who plays an Islamic terrorist in the film.
With the Republican base so fired up since candidate John McCain selected Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate, the timing for “Carol” couldn’t be better.
“This is one of the most unusual elections of our lives, and Palin has injected even more energy into it,” said the pic’s chief architect David Zucker. “The more people talk about the election, the better our movie will do, and the better Oliver Stone’s movie will do.”
Zucker — the writer, producer and director best known for a couple of “Scary Movie” sequels as well as “The Naked Gun” — is referring to Stone’s left-leaning film “W.,” a warts-and-all biographical look at President George W. Bush due Oct. 17.
How far left “W.” will lean remains to be seen. As for “Carol,” it not only leans right, but so do some of its stars, like Kelsey Grammer and Jon Voight.
“Carol” is partially backed by nonprofit group the Moving Picture Institute, which gave a grant to one of the film’s writers, Myrna Sokoloff, to help the part-time schoolteacher finish her work on the script.
Partisanship, however, is immaterial to the Moving Picture Institute’s decision to partially fund its script, founder Thor Halvorssen said.
MPI’s mission is “to nurture promising filmmakers who are committed to protecting a free society,” Halvorssen said.
What that has meant until “Carol” came along was producing, funding or supporting in a variety of ways 10 documentaries, and counting, that have been made by Democrats, Republicans and everything in between.
“They didn’t care about my politics. They put their money where their mouth is,” said Colin Gray, who accepted a grant from MPI to help market “Freedom’s Fury.”
Gray describes himself as “very left of center.” “Freedom’s Fury,” which he made with his sister, is about “the bloodiest water polo game in Olympic history” and the role that game played in the Hungarian Revolution of 1956.
What convinced MPI to branch out from strictly documentaries and embrace a Zucker comedy is the film’s irreverent approach to political correctness.
“Support for freedom sometimes involves disrespect for authority,” Halvorssen said.
As for Zucker and Sokoloff, they’re both ex-liberals who displayed their transformation into conservatism four years ago when they partnered on a group of humorous TV commercials during the last presidential election cycle. The popularity of those ads encouraged them to make “Carol,” with Sokoloff working on the story while Zucker and screenwriter Lewis Friedman focused on the jokes.
“The audience for ‘American Carol’ is underserved by Hollywood,” Zucker said, noting that the $20 million film skewers such liberal sacred cows as the ACLU and the anti-war movement, two popular causes among the entertainment industry elite. “About 150 million people will love it, and 150 million people will hate it.”
McEveety said the film will appeal more to “Airplane!” fans than to the “Scary Movie” crowd, and he’s not particularly worried about charges of partisanship.
“Sure, it takes a position, but it’s fun,” he said. “Can’t we have a little fun during this election?”
The film’s strong political opinion has resulted in a lot of free publicity from the likes of CNN and Fox News, which doesn’t surprise Vivendi Entertainment president Tom O’Malley.
“This is the first film I can think of from Hollywood that pokes fun at the left. That makes it fresh,” O’Malley said.
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