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By Phil Hall | August 22, 2006

Nick Doob and Chris Hegedus, creators of the compelling political documentary “The War Room,” have created a none-too-compelling political documentary with “Al Franken: God Spoke.” The problem, however, is not with the filmmakers – their work is smooth and professional. The problem is with their subject.

This is not a slam against Franken’s politics. Rather, it is a slam against Franken’s personality and shtick. A second-tier comic who never quite achieved stardom (even with a perch on “Saturday Night Live” during its classic era), Franken subsequently found notoriety in the guise of a left-wing political satirist who takes potshots at the Bush regime and the sneering right wing media that buttresses the administration’s long-discredited policies.

Yet whether he is doing “SNL”-style comedy or up-to-the-moment political commentary, Franken is a bore. His insights on the political process often seem elementary, even whiny. Yeah, Bush and Cheney are jerks. Yeah, Ann Coulter is all legs and no brains. Yeah, Bill O’Reilly is a bag of wind. Yeah, the war in Iraq was build on a foundation of fraud. Now how about telling us something we don’t know?

Franken’s celebrity allows him to move privileged circles and the film offers multiple opportunities to play “Spot the Star.” Genuine A-listers from William Safire to Yoko Ono to Michael Moore turn up, usually in nanosecond appearances, although a few notable personalities have more time on camera. Unfortunately, Franken inevitably winds up making a fool of himself in their presence: he bores Henry Kissinger with lousy imitation of the former Secretary of State and he loses a battle of wits and charms with the usually-emetic Sean Hannity.

Franken’s fans may enjoy this cinema verite journey into his political adventures, but both liberals and conservatives with a taste for stimulating cinema will be left out in the cold with this one.

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