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"Al Franken: God Spoke"

Directed by Nick Doob and Chris Hegedus.
Release Year:  2006
Review Date:  10/2/06


After watching "Renaissance" on Saturday I just figured, what the fuck?  I'm already at a movie theater, it's kind of shitty outside, so why NOT go see Al Franken rail on Republicans for another 90 minutes?  Shit, what's seven more dollars?

So, I took a walk, then came back and watched the new Al Franken documentary "Al Franken: God Spoke" at the local indiehouse.  Here's the thing--after a solid first fifteen to twenty minutes, this documentary just wasn't very good!  In following Franken as he goes through 2004 with the launch of his nationally-syndicated radio show on the Air America network through the John Kerry lost presidential bid, "Al Franken: God Spoke" is just old enough to not bring much historical perspective and just new enough that we should be open for more insight on what happened...IF any insight were to be presented.

But, the flick seems a bit scattershot, moving between the Franken/Bill O'Reilly wars on television (and, admittedly, O'Reilly does come off more and more as a Class A whiner) to random Franken attacks on liars during his book promo tour for his book Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right to his personal life to random bits with competing radio conservatives to old "Saturday Night Live" bits to hang time with his writing and research group.  Some of this is funny--reliving old bits from the "SNL" days can always be funny, I guess--but mostly, it not only paints reds as hopeless but Franken as POINTless, because his satire style is to correct the mistakes of the Republicans or conservatives as a whole but not present much in the way of funny bits of his own.  Reactionary comedy, I I said, at times, this works.  But for a 90-minute film, I caught myself looking at the watch a lot during this film, and that's because so many of the bits aren't that interesting and Franken is often sitting around laughing at things he says that just aren't very funny, which is strange, because I normally think he can be pretty funny.

There are a couple of strangely poignant moments, none better than the morning after the Bush re-election bid becomes a reality...Franken is caught with some tears in the eyes and it made me think back to when Bush won the election in 2004; I distinctly remember thinking about moving to Switzerland, and for a few days, I know that my buddy Dave Lee and I thought seriously about leaving this country behind forever before I realized just how crazy that sounded.  But, it was a disappointing day, even if I still think that Kerry had no shot of winning the thing anyway.  Franken also drops some knowledge on kids during a couple of high school presentations regarding proper treatment of facts, scenes that I thoroughly enjoyed as well.

But overall, "Al Franken: God Spoke" is a bit of a disappointment, since I thought it would be funnier or at least a film that would resonate with me on a deeper level.  That didn't happen, but the flick is still not a bad way to spend a Saturday afternoon.

Rating:  Matinee


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09