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Al Franken: God Spoke (2006) starstarstarhalf starno star Starring: Al Franken, Ann Coulter, Sean Hannity, Michael Medved, Michael Moore, Al Gore, William Safire, Henry Kissinger
Director: Nick Doob and Chris Hegedus
Rating: NR
Category: Documentary

It’s still really bizarre to see Al Franken treated as a major name in the world of political commentary; I can still remember when he and his comedy-writing partner, Tom Davis, starred in a bomb of a movie in 1986 – “One More Saturday Night” – that would’ve killed the career of a lesser talent…and the fact that he followed it with the legendarily unsuccessful “Stuart Saves His Family” didn’t exactly leave Franken with the words “Box Office Gold” trailing behind his name.

Thankfully, Franken’s comedic abilities were well-honed after spending years on the “Saturday Night Live” writing staff, so it’s not entirely surprising that he’d be able to translate his gifts into success in the literary field. After books like “Rush Limbaugh Is a Big Fat Idiot” and “Why Not Me?” (the fictional tale of what we’d get with a Franken presidency), Franken released a book entitled “Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right,” then became the name most associated with a new liberal radio network called Air America.

“God Spoke” is a documentary, made by the producers of “The War Room,” which begins with Franken doing his book tour for “Lies,” then follows him as he goes up against a steady stream of humorless individuals who seem to be cheering for Air America to fail. Interspersed with the footage are scenes of Franken throughout his career on “Saturday Night Live,” playing both himself as well as the ever-motivational Stuart Smalley (where he assures Al Gore that it’s okay for him to admit that he really wishes he’d won the election) and TV evangelist and former presidential candidate Pat Robertson. We also see a clip of Franken doing his Henry Kissinger impression, which is immediately followed by a recent face to face meet-up between Franken and Kissinger, where he favors Kissinger with the impression. (Kissinger seems amused.)

Franken’s a funny guy, and he tends to be on his game more often than not…though, of course, given that it’s his documentary, you’d expect that they’d pick his best moments. In fact, though, the most fascinating thing about “God Spoke” is that it shows how completely devoid of a sense of humor right-wing columnists and talk show hosts tend to be. It’s really bizarre. I mean, personally, I’m more liberal than not, but I can listen to anyone, no matter what their political beliefs, if they’re entertaining and can maintain a sense of humor about themselves; G. Gordon Liddy, for instance, is a huge Franken fan, and he couldn’t be farther away from Al’s political stance. But Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity can barely muster a fake smile when Franken makes a humorous comment, and they never miss an opportunity to get blustery and up in arms…particularly O’Reilly. By the way, keep your eyes open for the DVD of the film; a scene has been excised from the theatrical release that shows another one of Franken’s right-wing counterparts – not O’Reilly – getting bent out of shape, and hopefully it’ll make it onto the home video release.

We do get to see Franken get pretty bent out of shape himself, during his encounter with Michael Medved and when he’s respecting the memory of his friend, Senator Paul Wellstone. Franken gets prickly on occasion when in debate with others, and there are moments when you can certainly see how he might rub people the wrong way. Still, those who approach Franken as just a comedian and in turn refuse to take him seriously as someone who knows his politics are generally the ones who suffer the worst of his wrath.

“God Spoke” is an unquestionably entertaining ride – one which ends with a dejected Franken dealing with the repercussions of Kerry losing the presidential race to Bush – and you’ll almost certainly be quoting lines back to your friends, particularly the joke Franken reveals to be his father’s all-time favorite. Unfortunately, you won’t have much of an answer when they ask, “So what’s the film about?” Well, obviously, it’s about Al Franken…but why does it exist? My theory: it serves as an introduction to Franken and his politics, and it sets the stage for a future political run by Franken.

A platform based on telling truth? Wow, it’s crazy, but it just might work.

~Will Harris

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