Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Christmarathon Day 1: Hebrew Hammer

I know I said I was going to do a Christmas movie marathon this month, but since the first day of December fell on the first day of Hanukkah, I figured I'd represent my tribe (on my father's side) by kicking things off with a Hanukkah film. Turns out, there aren't very many Hanukkah films, and there are even fewer available for instant viewing on Netflix. So that's why I decided to watch the Hebrew Hammer, a parody of Blacksploitation films about a Jewish crusader who is the religion's last hope to save Hanukkah.

If you are a big fan of Red Buttons, George Burns, and the comedy stylings of most Vaudeville performers, you'll probably find something to enjoy in this movie. It's fun, clever, and full of charming, funny actors giving great performances. But... it could've been a bit better. It was kind of a one joke movie that never really rose above its main premise. If you only watch this movie for five minutes, you'll have already seen all of the jokes that are spread over the remaining hour and a half. They are funny jokes, but simply repeating adnaseaum the same tired cliches about Jewish over and over again grew real old real quick. This was a basic premise that would've worked better as a five minute skit on SNL instead of as an actual feature length film.

It's worth watching, however, because the cast is so darn good. Adam Goldberg is terrific as the titular character Mordechai Jefferson Carver, the "certified circumcised dick" given the assignment to save Hanukkah. Judy Greer is lovely and charming as his assistant, and the rest of the cast is full of excellent actors like Peter Coyote, Nora Dunn, and Mario Van Peebles. Best of all is Andy Dick as the evil Santa Clause who wants to rid the world of Hanukkah once and for all. Andy Dick is usually annoying as hell, but he was hilarious in this movie and pretty much stole every scene he was in. It was the kind of performance that makes you wonder if they even gave him a script or just started filming him and told him to do whatever he wanted. When he was on screen, I was laughing.

So as Christmas movies go, this is a pretty good one if you're Jewish. It was a clever premise that went on a bit too long and lacked that special something that made it a must see, but it was likable enough and just funny enough that it's worth watching. I enjoyed it, but I'm not surprised that it never gained much of a cult following. All things considered, a lot of Jews have made a lot of movies that were funnier than this one.

Happy Hanukkah, everybody!

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