DVD Review: ‘American Rescue Squad’

The makers of American Rescue Squad clearly think personal responsibility is an important value, so much so, in fact, that they named one of the superheroes in their movie Personal Responsibility. So I hope writers Adam and Elliot Diviney (the latter of whom also directed) practice what they preach and take full responsibility for the agonizing shittiness of their movie.

I am not generally in the business of hammering some low-budget labor of love that almost no one is going to see anyway, but ARS is so inept, so unfunny, so badly paced, poorly written, and uninteresting that watching it was pure drudgery. Even so, I might still try to find some silver lining if it didn’t embody such a childish and reactionary view of politics, government, humanity, race, gender, and religion.

American Rescue Squad is an allegorical musical satire — a kind of “Pilgrim’s Progress” for South Park Republicans — in which the Taxpayer has been taken hostage by a group called “The Alliance.” Common Sense and Personal Responsibility (both actual character names) are called in to save the Taxpayer from the evil clutches of bankers, auto companies, religion, welfare layabouts, the teachers’ union, and lazy immigrants. The plot is more or less beside the point, since ARS is primarily just a string of lectures — on bad drivers, welfare, bathroom etiquette, the necessity of birth control, and many more — disguised as comedic setpieces and musical numbers.

The overall effect is extremely tiring, like sitting through a Ron Paul rally and a Capitol Steps performance back to back. The whole thing is not really offensive — though I get the sense that writers Adam and Elliot Diviney would take that label as a compliment, evidence that they are telling it like it is, unfiltered, like Trey Parker and Matt Stone (to whom the movie is dedicated) — it’s just wearying and misguided, starting with the very premise of the beleaguered Taxpayer and extending to nearly every facet of the movie’s construction, from the idea that immigrants are lazy and unwilling to assimilate to the absurd notion that white men are routinely blocked from employment because of affirmative action (which the Divineys conflate with Equal Employment Opportunity) to the myth of the lazy good-for-nothing sucking on the teat of free welfare.

If you agree with the above points, then maybe you will find something to like about ARS. The Divineys’ libertarianism does extend to more typically liberal ideas as well, particularly an antipathy toward religion and a pro-choice stance, though even these are wrapped up, respectively, in a simplistic fondness for “rationality” and in a gross Malthusianism. And even if one agrees with any, or even all, of the ideas in the movie, they are all handled so ham-handedly that their treatment is more likely to produce cringes than laughter.

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