Al Franken: God Spoke

Maybe you like Al Franken's politics, maybe you don't. Whatever you think of him, there's no denying that the guy has a unique kind of wit. Unfortunately, a few years ago he gave up straight comedy to become a political talking head, and I guess someone decided to record it. The result is Al Franken: God Spoke, a scattered documentary following Franken's politics laced exploits from the release of his book "Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them" in 2003, through the launch of his liberal radio station Air America", and up to his announcement that he'll run for senator from the great state of Minnesota.

Following Al Franken around with a camera for a few years is an idea that has potential. He's an interesting figure, and someone whose personal life usually stays pretty much in the shadows. Unfortunately, none of that will change with this documentary, which does little more than skim the surface of who and what Franken is. It plays as if he had final cut approval on it, and went out of his way to make sure they removed anything that might cast him in a bad light. Smart move if you're a political candidate and you want a propaganda video; not so great if you're trying to participate in an honest, even-handed documentary.

Maybe that's not true, and maybe Al Franken is a truly wonderful guy. But even wonderful guys have their bad days. Even at his lowest, after George Bush won a second term, Franken never loses his cool.

You know what; I'm actually willing to believe that Al Franken really is that nice, funny, gentle, kind-hearted guy in this documentary. I'd be even more willing to believe it if there was any depth to what we're being shown. But the camera never follows him much beyond his job. There's a short, very short sequence of him at home with his wife, but it feels tacked on, as if to say "hey you should elect this guy as governor because he's great and look, he has a really normal home life too!"

I'm not sure I agree with all of his politics, but I've always liked Al and I just think he's better than this. The film is flimsy, little better than a sketch comedy bit, an advertisement for Al Franken's burgeoning political career. Directors Nick Doob and Chris Hegedus were given a gift in Franken as their subject matter, but they never capture much of his true essence, just the public figure mode we've already seen him in. If this is the best they can muster, I'd suggest giving it up and getting a job working directly for the Democratic National Committee. Doob and Hegedus would do a great job counter-punching all the Republican propaganda flooding America, but they don't seem to have a clue about what it takes to find the truth of Al Franken.

Somewhere beneath this hollow shell lies a real film about a gentle rebel with a cause passionately fighting for what he believes in with the backing of a good woman. Al Franken: God Spoke only hints at the existence of that story though, and instead plays as a vanity piece. I refuse to believe this is the movie Al wanted.

Josh Tyler