Left-wing activist and filmmaker Michael Malone (Kevin Farley), a parody of Michael Moore, campaigns to end the celebration of the Fourth of July holiday. Malone holds pronounced anti-American views and truculently argues that America's past and present are both offensive, and therefore should not be celebrated.
On the evening of July 3, Malone watches a speech from President John F. Kennedy and mistakenly interprets the speech to mean avoiding war at any cost. President Kennedy rises out of the television set, corrects Malone regarding the intent of the speech, and informs him that he will be visited by three spirits.
The following morning, Malone is visited by General George S. Patton (Kelsey Grammer), who shows him an alternate United States where slavery still exists because Abraham Lincoln (founder of the Republican Party) chose not to fight the Civil War. Malone later sees George Washington (Jon Voight) who gives a passionate speech about God's gift of freedom and the price many people pay for others to have it. Malone is visited by the angel of death (Trace Adkins), who takes him to a future Los Angeles completely taken over by radical Islamists. He is then taken to the ruins of his hometown in Michigan, which has been destroyed by a nuclear bomb planted by Al Qaeda. In a mortuary, Malone learns that he will be killed in this attack, leaving nothing behind but his trademark hat and "big ass." Facing his death, Malone pleads for his life with the Angel, promising to change. However, all is not well after Malone's revelation, for Aziz, a Middle Easterner he had interviewed, is actually a terrorist who will bomb a 4 July rally along with his underlings Ahmed and Fayed. However, when Fayed and Ahmed learn they are going to be detonated along with the planned bomb, they figure their slim chance of survival is by seeking out Malone.
Later, Malone arrives at an anti-Fourth of July protest rally and publicly renounces his former views. This triggers an outraged mob from which he is rescued, however, by American servicemen. Meeting up with Malone, Ahmed and Fayed defuse their own bomb, thus sparing the people at the anti-Independence Day rally and resulting in the capture of the terrorist Aziz. Safe inside a country music concert, the three are formally welcomed to "the real America" by Trace Adkins (this time as himself). A reformed Malone then goes to a Navy base to see his nephew Josh off to the Persian Gulf. He tells Josh how very proud he is of him and promises to look in on his wife and family during his deployment. In the final scene, Malone now decides to make films he feels people would appreciate, as well as Fayed and Ahmed as part of the crew, who have been pardoned for foiling the bombing. Malone is last seen working on a biographical film about President Kennedy.
An American Carol was strongly promoted by notable Republicans and conservative personalities such as Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck and Mark Levin. On October 3, 2008, actors Kevin Farley and Kelsey Grammer appeared on the Fox News program The O'Reilly Factor to promote the film, particularly in light of the guest appearance of show host Bill O'Reilly in the film. An American Carol has also been described by newspapers such as the Dallas Morning News as being "for the right wing". The American Conservative reported, "The movie has been promoted by bloggers on National Review Online. The Leadership Institute, an activist group that maintains contact with College Republicans nationwide, urged its charges to see the movie on opening weekend, even handing out tickets to its interns."
Based on 45 reviews collected by Rotten Tomatoes, An American Carol has an 11% approval rating from critics, with an average score of 2.9/10. Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, the film has received an average score of 20, based on 12 reviews. The film had no advance screenings for critics. Director David Zucker said the studio did not believe the film would get a fair hearing due to its conservative political viewpoint, and had been "advised that most reviewers don't agree with the politics".
A conservative contributor to Ain't it Cool News said the film featured "ingenious comedy that we remember from Airplane!" and was "funny and inventive." Kathleen Parker of Washington Post Writers Group described the film as "[not] The Best Movie You Ever Saw, but it’s something. It’s radical in its assault on the left wing; it’s brave given the risk of peer ridicule and the potential for career suicide. And it’s funny — if you like that sort of thing. Generally, I don’t." Michael Brendan Doherty of The American Conservative considered the movie to be funny "in parts", but concluded that "Far from lampooning the Left, “Carol” insults conservatives by presuming that they are so simple as to be won over by fat jokes and flatulence. But the audience, imagining itself to be persecuted by Hollywood, is so grateful to be flattered by Zucker and company that they chuckle obediently at every cheap laff." Steven Rea of The Philadelphia Inquirer gave the movie one star out of five, called it "jaw-droppingly awful," and "about as not-funny as a comedy can get." Lou Lumenick of the New York Post wrote, "Even if it weren't three years too late to parody Moore (ineptly played by Kevin Farley), Moore's ridiculous tribute to Cuban health care in Sicko is far funnier than anything in this desperately laughless farce from David Zucker."
On September 5, 2008, Michael Moore was a guest on Larry King Live and was shown a clip from the film where Malone (while lying down on his bed, drinking a Big Gulp and watching archival footage of JFK's inaugural address) is startled by Kennedy, who materializes out of Malone's television screen, and confronts him on his misguided views of American history. Moore said that he was vaguely familiar with the film, and then jokingly said he thought that Viggo Mortensen should be portraying him. When King asked him his opinion, Moore shrugged and said, "I hope it's funny."
An American Carol which opened on 1,639 screens nationwide, finished ninth at the box office that week, with a gross of $3.8 million, or a per-screen average of $2,325. For its second weekend, An American Carol had a 58.8 percent drop in box office receipts and dropped to #15, grossing $1,505,000 at 1,621 theaters or $928 per screen.
The film faded in the box office in its third weekend dropping 73.8 percent and finishing #21 at 599 theaters grossing $365,000 or $609 per screen. In its fourth weekend, it dropped to #41 at 109 theaters grossing $60,000 or $550 per screen.
As of October 2009, An American Carol has grossed $7 million after having a production budget of $20 million.
Zucker, in an interview with National Review Online, had suggested a sequel as his next possible project, but now says he is done making conservative comedies. Zucker stated that the audience for this type of film is one who waits for it to be available on DVD.
This film was released on DVD and Blu-ray Disc on December 30, 2008, by Vivendi Entertainment.
It includes a full length audio commentary by David Zucker and Kevin Farley along with several scenes and footage cut from the theatrical release.