Tuesday, December 21, 2004

The Hebrew Hammer
Review by Sombrero Grande

It’s a little-known fact that several of the Masked Movie Snobs have a real soft spot for blaxploitation movies of the ‘70s. Bolsa de Queso is known to have a special affinity for Blacula and The Disco Godfather. Mil Peliculas and I will routinely get together for “Dolenight” where we’ll run our own blaxploitation movie marathons, usually featuring the films of Rudy Ray Moore (a.k.a. the “bad, bad Dolemite”). So when a blaxploitation parody comes along, I’m interested. Unfortunately, as is the case with The Hebrew Hammer, I’m also usually disappointed.

While there is some good material in The Hebrew Hammer, there’s also a lot that isn’t. The story and set-up are rather clever. Santa Claus has been allowing Hanukkah and Kwanzaa to encroach too much on Christmas’ seasonal dominance for Santa’s evil son Damien to stomach. Damien rubs out Santa and dons the red suit as the new St. Nick, vowing to wipe out Hanukkah once and for all. There are several steps he takes in order to accomplish this, the most clever being the distribution of black-market videocassettes of It’s a Wonderful Life to Jewish kids on the street. It’s up to Mordechai Jefferson Carver, a.k.a. The Hebrew Hammer, to stop him and make the world safe again for minority holidays.

I’m not overly knowledgeable on Jewish culture, and I couldn’t get any of my Jewish buddies to watch The Hebrew Hammer and give me their take on it, so I’m going to review this film strictly as a blaxploitation parody and comedy. As a parody of the blaxploitation genre, The Hebrew Hammer comes up short largely because it seldom remains true to its target. This ain’t “DoleSemite.” Instead, the film seems to model itself more after the likes of Undercover Brother, which is itself more an imitator of Austin Powers than blaxploitation. There’s one scene in The Hebrew Hammer that feels directly plucked from The Spy Who Shagged Me where Damien attempts to remove all the Jewish mojo-like fluid from the Jewish Atomic Clock. The lack of blaxploitation focus is also apparent when the film briefly breaks into a black and white film noir parody for no other reason than it was the easiest joke to make at that moment.

As a comedy, the film also disappoints. For every funny plot point, there’re a dozen unfunny gags pertaining to the likes of penises, cat poop or phlegmy spitting. The clever premise is stretched way too thin and the film is padded more than a skinny mall Santa’s suit. Unfunny jokes like the revealing of the “new Santa” at the end of the film only underline the fact that just about everything in The Hebrew Hammer has the potential to be much better/funnier than it is. While there are a few chuckles spread throughout, The Hebrew Hammer overall doesn’t hold a candle (or even eight) to what the film might have been as a tightly knit short or parody sketch.


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