Al Franken: God Spoke (directed by Nick Doob and Chris Hegedus): In terms of liberal armchair quarterbacking, it doesn't get more intriguing and cringe-inducing than unpacking the 2004 Presidential election. Watching the documentary Al Franken: God Spoke, you can't help but be fascinated and yet saddened by the look of idealism in comedian-turned-political pundit Al Franken's eyes. He's so sure he can make a difference, it's heart-breaking. Compounding that "we know how the Titanic sank" feeling you get while watching this movie is the knowledge that Air America, the liberal Talk Radio station which Franken is helping to found during the process of the film, is also headed for ruin. However knowing that after the credits roll everything doesn't turn out so well for our hero doesn't really detract from this well-made non-fiction portrait. Directed by the documentary stalwarts Nick Doob and Chris Hegedus, and executive produced by D.A. Pennebaker, the filmmakers do a great job with their intimate footage and judicious editing of capturing the thoughtful, politically passionate man behind the creator of Stuart Smalley, and other such SNL characters. Franken had developed a very successful career making people laugh, but through the movie we see how his convictions wouldn't allow him to stay quiet about the direction he saw the country heading. He almost makes punditry look like a noble calling. Also good for a liberal chuckle is the footage of Franken going head to head with a very icy Ann Coulter. The fact that she doesn't lean over and pop him one in the nose shows remarkable restraint on her part. Rent this documentary and you'll walk away hoping that Franken's bid for a Senate seat turns out much more successfully than his career in talk radio.
Other new DVDs coming to a video store near you this week include another chance to see Helen Mirren's well-deserved Oscar win for The Queen, the first season of Adult Swim's bizarre and hilarious clay-mation series about the religious Right Moral Orel, a box set of nonfiction films by a French great The Documentaries of Louis Malle and Ben Stiller's wildly popular family film Night at the Museum. Apparently, Ben being slapped by a monkey is comic gold in certain circles.
[Production still of Al Franken courtesy of Balcony Releasing.]