The film documents the past few years in the life of Al Franken, former Saturday Night Live writer/performer, best-selling author, and current host of his own radio program on Air America Radio. The movie opens with a satirical skit of God telling Franken to combat the people on the right who tell lies and smear those on the left.
Although Franken first started doing what he calls “verbal ju-jitsu” in 1996 with his book Rush Limbaugh is a Big Fat Idiot and Other Observations, the movie begins with his infamous run-in with Bill O’Reilly at the 2003 LA BookExpo where O’Reilly showed his frustration with being a cover boy on Franken’s Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right. The video can still be seen at the BookTV/C-Span2 website, fast forward past Molly Ivins.
God Spoke proceeds with events such as Franken starting at Air America Radio when the network got off the ground, arguing with conservatives Sean Hannity and Michael Medved at the 2004 national political conventions, and the Presidential election that followed. Sprinkled throughout is biographical info about Franken, his parents, and his wife. The film concludes with him leaning towards making a decision that will mean more activity in the political process.
However, a series of events doesn’t make a story. The filmmakers fail to tell a compelling or universal tale that any viewer can identify or empathize with. Instead, they only offer a bunch of clips that is no different from any other celebrity reality show. Franken’s potential decision in the film’s final scenes shows a change in him, which could be considered a character arc, and is an idea that some viewers may relate to, but it’s not apparent until the end. Considering production began in 2003 and the conclusion was seemingly unknown at that time, the story seems to have been formed in the editing room rather than the filmmakers first having a story they wanted to tell.
God Spoke has funny moments from Franken on SNL, comedic performances at fundraisers, and his USO appearance; however, that doesn’t guarantee his fans will be entertained throughout. The film mixes in serious material such as Air America Radio losing affiliates in Chicago and Los Angeles due to a disagreement with Multicultural Radio and Franken’s frustration with Bush’s re-election. A better balance of material would have made the film more engaging and improved the pacing. Those neutral to Franken will probably remain so while those who don’t like him won’t have their opinion changed.
The film has opened in New York in limited release. View the trailer here.