Hagiography, candidate biopic, seriocomic picaresque: Whatever you call this portrait of political provocateur Al Franken, enjoying it requires a love of the man deep enough to rival his own. Ninety minutes with anyone this seriously unserious is bound to be a drain; good thing he’s also a scream.
The largely noninterrogative film follows Franken on a book tour, during his stints with the 2004 presidential conventions and, finally, to his home state of Minnesota, where he announces a possible run for the Senate. The requisite SNL footage turns up, as do the usual wing nuts intent on disparaging him. Through it all, Franken remains unfazed, informed and passionate. Who wouldn’t vote for him?
If God Spoke illuminates anything, though, it’s that Franken’s strategy of engaging the enemy via imitation has made him as much of an insider as his adversaries. There are no scenes of populist advocacy or community activism here, and the oversight is as troubling in a would-be senator as it is in a movie intent on making his case. Where Franken excels, of course, is as a satirist, and in that regard directors Nick Doob and Chris Hegedus reveal him as Stephen Colbert’s earnest other half, fearlessly calling the country’s power elite on its abhorrent lies. For that, he’s invaluable.—Mark Holcomb
(Now playing; IFC Center.)