Friday, December 4, 2015

#1,936. The Hebrew Hammer (2003)

Directed By: Jonathan Kesselman

Starring: Adam Goldberg, Andy Dick, Judy Greer

Tag line: "This Hanukkah, All He Wants For Christmas Are Santa's Two Front Teeth"

Trivia: The original script called for a cameo from US Senator Joe Lieberman (Democrat, later Independent, of Connecticut), but Lieberman turned it down, so the role went to former New York City mayor Ed Koch

This film is dedicated to all of the Jewish Brothers and Sisters who have had enough of the Gentile

Here’s a Holiday flick well off the beaten path: writer / director Jonathan Kesselman’s The Hebrew Hammer, a comedy poking fun at both Hanukkah and Christmas that also happens to be an A-class spoof of ‘70s Blaxploitation films.

Mordechai Jefferson Carter, aka The Hebrew Hammer (Adam Goldberg), a private investigator and the self-proclaimed defender of all things Jewish, is about to face his most difficult challenge. 

A coup at the North Pole has led to the murder of the current Santa Claus (Richard Riehle), who was taken out by his bigoted son Damian (Andy Dick). With his dad out of the way, Damian takes over the entire Christmas operation, and - hoping to corner the Holiday market - has set his sights on Hanukkah, proclaiming that he intends to destroy the holy festival once and for all! 

To combat this newest threat, Chief Bloomenbergensteinenthal (Peter Coyote) of the Jewish Justice League enlists the help of The Hebrew Hammer, who, aided by both the Chief’s pretty daughter Esther (Judy Greer) and Mohammed Ali Paula Abdul Rahim (Mario Van Peebles) of the Kwanzaa Liberation Front, faces off against the "new" Santa. Can Hammer defeat such a powerful foe, or will tyranny and racial injustice prevail?

Adam Goldberg is simultaneously smooth and neurotic as the title character; he’s respected and feared on the streets, yet his mother (Nora Dunn) still belittles him for not having a “decent job” like her friend’s kids. As you can imagine, there are plenty of ethnic-flavored jokes scattered throughout the movie (right before making love, Esther asks Hammer to “talk dirty” to her, at which point he enflames her passion by saying he wants to marry her, have lots of children, and move to a nice, but not extravagant house on Long Island). 

That said, The Hebrew Hammer works best when spoofing ‘70s Blaxploitation movies. Along with its Shaft-inspired theme (“Who’s the certified, circumcised private dick that’s a sex machine to all the chicks?” “Hammer!” “Amen”), there’s a quick cameo by Melvin Van Peebles, writer / director of Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song; as well as a photo montage, a la Super Fly (complete with Curtis Mayfield’s “Pusherman”) of Santa’s right-hand man Tiny Tim (Sean Whalen, The People Under the Stairs) passing out bootleg copies of Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life to Jewish kids, essentially getting them “hooked” on Christmas. To counter the effect, Hammer has the Jewish Justice League mass-produce videos of The Chosen, Yentl, and Fiddler on the Roof.

The steady stream of culturally-based humor does wear a bit thin as the story progresses, but if you’re looking for a fun, funny, entertaining alternative to the holiday programming flooding the airwaves this time of year, The Hebrew Hammer is the way to go.

Can you dig it?

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