What if everything the crazy right wing said about Obama was actually true? Meet freedom-hating Kenyan Socialist and “President-for-Life”, Barack Obama.
That is the conceit that director Greg Bergman brings to his film Obamaland Part 1: Rise of the Trumpublikans. If that sounds like something that may trigger you, it probably will. Donald Trump, Mike Pence, and Paul Ryan all suffer an abrupt tragic death early in his presidency. This leads to Barack Obama being elected President for Life. His mission is to turn America into a socialist utopia and bring equality for all. The whole premise surrounds local West Obamaland hipster, Tinder (Isaac Anderson) as he begins a journey into the Borderlands to write an article about minority bands. After being forced to flee from being found guilty of a hate crime, Tinder finds new allies with the Trumpublikans. The Trumpublikans vow to overthrow Obama before he can finish building his “Redistribution Ray” and restore reasonably priced casual family dining to America.
To Bergman’s credit, he had taken his premise and ran with it. If it sounds like pretty stupid stuff, however, you’d be right. The closest film this reminds me of is Americathon (1979). Americathon is a Carter-era comedy which also is built by an equally ridiculous premise. In a not too distant future, America has run out of gas and people are forced to live in their cars. The country is bankrupt and will soon have to be sold to the owners of Nike (which just so happens to be the nation’s Native Americans). President Chet Roosevelt (John Ritter) comes up with a plan to save the country by holding a Jerry Lewis-esque telethon.
Obamaland suffers the exact same faults as Americathon in that the film appears to be “dated” on release. By the time Americathon came out, the country was veering into the Reagan era. Obamaland just shows how long ago the 2016 election seems by now, because the issues seem to be changing at a lightning pace. The other glaring fault that the two films share is the literal sense of humor. Every scene and line of dialogue seems to recall a current trend or issue. As a result, especially with Obamaland, the entire premise seems like a piece of sketch comedy that goes on way too long. When stacked next to each other, Obamaland can’t hold a candle. Americathon features an insane and irreplaceable cast which includes the aforementioned John Ritter with Harvey Korman, Fred Willard and more. The movie also contained insane set-pieces, such as a gladiator sequence involving Meat Loaf dueling a car. Obamaland, however, relies on meme-level humor that barely registers beyond “claughter”-level amusement.
While I doubt Obamaland will end up being a long-lasting cultural artifact, it does have some decent moments. Bergman seems to be aiming for some South Park-level approach to politics, so almost anything goes towards either side of the spectrum. It is refreshing to see somewhat of a dichotomic attack in this day and age, unfortunately the material simply doesn’t stack up. Obamaland works best when it knows exactly when the material is horribly offensive, but goes for it anyway. Sequences such as when the Trumpublikans enlisting the help of El Chapo and the Sinaloa Cartel to dig a tunnel to the “Rainbow House” was somewhat amusing. A scene that riffs Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (Only the Progressive Man Will Pass) almost inspired a chuckle-out-loud from me as it reaches its encounter with “Morgan Freeman.” The rest of the film, however, fails to rise to the occasion.
Most people will find this movie either offensive, or just plain dumb. The end result is as if the comment sections of Fox News and Occupy Democrats came to life. If that incites your curiosity in any way, I assure you that it is plain dull. I will applaud Greg Bergman for trying. I will also applaud Chris James for his Barack Obama impression, which goes above and beyond the material.
I think if I wasn’t so disgusted with the left vs. right wing politics that everyone seems obsessed with now, I would probably have enjoyed the movie more. Then again, if people were to ‘lighten up” more, maybe a movie like this wouldn’t be made. Take it with a grain of salt.