In the world of fastidious liberalism, Al Franken has the considerable pleasure of being one of the group's most charismatic spokesmen. His work on SNL and in a few films opens up to a larger audience than Michael Moore and his floundering Air America radio station makes him an underdog hero to many left-wingers. Documentary filmmakers Nick Doob and Chris Hegedus felt there was just cause for a film to be made about Franken and his anti-Bush, anti-right-wing push during the last election, amongst other things.
The film covers a lot of ground in its modest runtime. It starts with the promotional run of Franken's best-seller Lies and The Lying Liars Who Tell Them and moves to the launch of Air America and its subsequent slide downward, ending a little after the 2004 elections. In addition to all this, you're spending most of the time with a somewhat bull-headed, no-less charming entertainer with a nasally voice that's a few pitches below Chief Wiggum.
The truth is that God Spoke is unapologetically one-sided. Ann Coulter, Bill O'Reilly, and Sean Hannity, all about as sleazy a people as you're likely to meet, are nevertheless given no time to talk on-screen (though part of me suspects they might have been asked and declined). Because of this, the film borders on hero worship at times, not giving the audience a balancing voice, someone who doesn't think that at the very least Franken is a good guy. It cheats the film of some much-needed integrity, and almost turns itself into one of the 30 billion (and counting) documentaries that think they have something new and important to say about the current political climate.
The saving grace is that the film is also devilishly entertaining and, at moments, endearing and somewhat informative. The parts that stick out are near the end, where we are given a more clear look at Franken's home life and his utter dread of Bush's second win. Franken is a born entertainer and most of the film is him in front of an audiences of one type or another. This helps the entertainment value of God Spoke, but it doesn't really get to the heart of the man. It's touching to watch disappointment wash over his face when he finds out that Bush has won because it's an honest, human reaction. The same goes for the scenes with his wife, even just looking at new apartments, where we see him just being human instead of being the entertainer we know and love.
Al Franken does seem to be a person worth getting to know. Earlier this year, we got closer with Al Gore in An Inconvenient Truth, and the effect was rigorously fascinating. The difference is focus, and God Spoke seems to just want to give us a greatest hits collection from his speeches and then a blustery look at his behind-the-scenes life. The squirmy scenes between Franken and Coulter, Hannity, and O'Reilly add a certain seasoning to the film, but they can't complete what is missing from the film. Still, one wonders if a film about any right-wing mouthpieces would hold any entertainment or intellectual value. Who knows? The next move is yours, Ann.