'Undefeated' Receives Unflattering Treatment from Entertainment Weekly

July 20th, 2011 3:49 PM

After Entertainment Weekly graciously gave grades of B+ to Michael Moore's 'Fahrenheit 9/11' and A- to former Vice President Al Gore's 'An Inconvenient Truth,' EW's John Young has bestowed a much different treatment on his review of the new Sarah Palin political documentary, 'The Undefeated.'

The conservative documentary, which successfully opened last weekend in limited release, was given a snarky review under the headline "Sarah Palin's 'The Undefeated': We saw it so you don't have to!".

While 'The Undefeated' is admittedly told from a conservative viewpoint, the criticism of it, compared to the warm reception of Moore and Gore's liberally biased films, is remarkable.

In the 'Undefeated' review, Young acknowledges that the director has every right to make it a pro-Palin film, but mocks the quality of the film for that same reason. Palin, whom Young describes as someone "who positions herself as so outside the political system that she can host a reality-television show and somehow get away with it," had no affiliation with the production of the film, but Young still manages to frequently insult her and the director.

Ideally, a documentary about Palin’s swift rise to national prominence would investigate both her notable triumphs and numerous gaffes. But considering The Undefeated‘s title, no one is going to approach it expecting a balanced account of Palin’s career. [...]

As for my thoughts, let me begin by saying that the film’s staunch one-sidedness, while unfortunate, isn’t a major flaw in-and-of itself. Although The Undefeated is essentially a two-hour love fest for Palin, director and writer Stephen K. Bannon (In the Face of Evil: Reagan’s War in Word and Deed) has every artistic right to tell this woman’s story with the reverence he believes she deserves. When it comes to crafting an engrossing and coherent narrative, however, The Undefeated might as well resign.

In contrast, never do the 'Fahrenheit 9/11' or 'Inconvenient Truth' reviews acknowledge any one-sidedness or disagreements with the films' content.

Young also complains of a number of biases in the film he sees as conveniently aiding Palin's case, including glazing over the 2008 presidential campaign, painting her resignation as a result of the distracting bombardment of ethics investigations (ignoring possible financial motivations to move to TLC and Fox News), and only including commentary from "conservative bigwigs like Mark Levin and Andrew Breitbart" who are just "voices to the choir."

Reviews of 'Fahrenheit 9/11' and 'An Inconvenient Truth' never mentioned the possibility of biased omissions or one-sided debates, even though both were released to much wider audiences.

Instead, the 'Fahrenheit 9/11' review lauded Moore for his Bush-bashing, leaving no room to explain any factual inaccuracies or the possibility of differing viewpoints.

''Fahrenheit 9/11'' creates as much heat as it does light. Moore, however, does pull together the last four years by filtering them through the prism of Bush's personality. He gets you to connect the theatrical snigger that's meant to look manly but, instead, telegraphs a cushy insularity; the overreliance on others to stake out decisions; and, finally, the application of the slacker mind-set to warfare by the substitution of an easy target (Iraq) for a hard one (al-Qaeda). Scalding and glib, derisive yet impassioned, ''Fahrenheit 9/11'' is highly resonant Bush-bashing, since the President does most of the work for it.

Similarly, Gore received a doting treatment in the review of his film, and EW again neglected the possibility that Gore's film could be factually inaccurate.

The beauty part is, Gore isn't preaching to the converted. He's reaching out to the skeptics, pitching his lecture to those who believe that there might, sort of, kind of, be something to all this but are wired, in their guts, to suspect otherwise. Early on, Gore debunks the conservative myth that global warming may be happening (slightly), but that it's merely cyclical, by making himself into a sight gag, with an elevated ladder that hoists him up a geological graph, showing, as a visual-numerical fact, the unprecedented levels temperatures are now at. That's just one of his many professorial/showman tricks: before-and-after slides of Mount Kilimanjaro and other hot spots, computer simulations of the effects of the potential catastrophe of the polar ice caps melting — which, make no mistake, they are. [...]

While Young does compliment the treatment of Palin's early time as governor, saying "it’s easy to forget that the first half of Palin’s governorship was marked by strong approval ratings and some significant legislative victories," the overall review rings of a writer who drew the short stick and begrudgingly had to see the documentary in a theater with moviegoers who "dug what they saw, showering the movie with applause at its conclusion."

In the end, even if Young were completely accurate in his criticisms of Palin's documentary, EW does not give the same treatment towards big-name political documentaries on the other side of the aisle. Gore's film received glowing praise as "funny," "eloquent," and showcasing "a mainstream crisis." Moore's, likewise, was described as "potent" and an "infuriating fight-the power documentary." Palin's, on the other hand, was declared as a "hyperventilating dog of a film — one that’s willing to do whatever it takes to please its master."