Cinema Obscura 

If Jews really do control the entertainment industry through some shadowy international conspiracy, why aren’t there any decent Hanukkah movies? That’s one of two valid questions raised by holiday loxploitation film The Hebrew Hammer. (The other one being “Why am I still watching this?”)

In a plot to kill Hanukkah, Santa Claus (Andy Dick in the role he was hatched to play) instructs his elves to give bootleg copies of It’s a Wonderful Life to Jewish children, reasoning that the unadulterated shot of Christmas cheer in Frank Capra’s eggnog enema will convince all those impressionable young Semites to renounce the Festival of Lights. Fortunately, “circumcised private dick” the Hebrew Hammer, aka Mordechai Jefferson Carver (and if you’re not laughing now, don’t expect to), is on the case. He attempts to counter Santa’s scheme by handing out copies of movies featuring positive Jewish protagonists, a designation the film later limits to Yentl, Fiddler on the Roof, and Chaim Potok’s The Chosen.

It’s probably redundant at this point to mention that The Hebrew Hammer — an R-rated attempt to bleed laughs from the same stale stereotypes Mel Brooks sucked dry decades ago — doesn’t merit the fourth spot on its own list of movies. The Hammer might dress like Hasidic Superfly, but his neuroses are all Woody Allen — a more stereotypically Jewish Woody Allen. Far from the gentile-slaying sex machine you might expect, the Hammer keeps Kosher, avoids the lures of the shiksa while obsessing over his own sexual inadequacies, and ultimately agrees to save the Jewish culture to impress his mother, who really just wants him to be a doctor.

From the sort-of-funny prologue — in which young Mordechai sits sadly spinning his dreidel, excluded from the incredibly non-secular Christmas party at St. Peter Paul and Mary’s Public School — to the unfortunate scene in which Andy Dick’s Damien usurps the Santa Claus throne through jolly old elf-icicide, it’s apparent that Hebrew Hammer is intended purely as a holiday bitch session for traumatized Jewish adults. Some complaints (the marginalization of the minority in the American melting pot, the inherent ridiculousness in proclaiming that Christmas is under attack even as its celebration threatens to consume a full fourth of the calendar year) are very legit, and a few (too few) gags actually work. Unfortunately, Goldberg’s portrayal of a Jewish action hero is more likely to merit a complaint from the Anti-defamation League than to inspire lapsed Israelites to dig that Menorah out of the attic.



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