Al Franken: God Spoke

on September 13, 2006 by Tim Cogshell
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The title of this political documentary from the makers of “The War Room” is a riff on President George W. Bush's declaration that God had spoken to him personally, a notion that comedian-cum-political activist Al Franken plainly engages with some measure of scorn. The film follows Franken for a couple of years, from before the 2004 presidential election through Democratic candidate John Kerry's and beyond. Over the course of this period the filmmakers capture Franken's several nasty conflicts with such noted news, political and social figures as Bill O'Reilly, Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, Senator Norm Coleman and Michael Medved from the righti-sh side of the political spectrum, while also recording his support for figures including the late Senator Paul Wellstone, Senator John Edwards, Al and Tipper Gore, Janeane Garofalo and the Clintons on the left-ish side. We see the launching of the left-wing radio network Air Americal, including its troubled first few weeks, as well as several iconic moments from the national media in which Franken is involved.

The cumulative effect of these scenes illuminates little about the politics of any of these people or the groups they represent, which is plainly not a goal of Franken or the filmmakers, who seem wholly content with the notion of espousing their own political perspectives while exposing (depending on your point-of-view) those of their nemeses. The result is at worst a very funny string of political diatribes from all concerned, and at best a validation of any given audience member's point-of-view. No one who watches “Al Franken: God Spoke” will learn anything about politics and the associated personalities herein that they didn't already know, or feel any differently about any of these people than they already felt, which is fine and not particularly unusual in the realm of political docs. What is notable about the film is that, despite the fact that it is centered on Franken, filmmakers Nick Doob and Chris Hegedus let everyone have their say, even if Franken gets the usually quite funny last word. Starring Al Franken. Directed by Nick Doob and Chris Hegedus. Produced by Rebecca Marshall and Frazer Pennebaker. A Balcony release. Documentary. Not Rated. Running time: 90 min.

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