The Hebrew Hammer

2003, Movie, R, 90 mins


You don't have to be Jewish to love Jonathan Kesselman's uneven, profane and occasionally flat-out hilarious parody of vintage blaxploitation pictures, but it helps. Mordechai Jefferson Carver (Adam Goldberg) is a tough talking private dick (yes, there's a joke) from Brooklyn who fears no one but his formidably solicitous mother (Nora Dunn). As the Hammer politely rebuffs meddling babushkas who want to hook him up with their pimply daughters, a crisis is brewing at the North Pole. Santa, a tolerant fellow who dedicated his life to shaping and preserving an inclusive holiday season, has been murdered by his evil son, Damian (Andy Dick). Damian intends to destroy Hanukkah and Kwanzaa, returning Christmas to its proper place in the holiday pantheon. Damian sends his minion, Tiny Tim (Sean Whalen), to corrupt Jewish children with copies of It's a Wonderful Life and books in-store appearances during which, flanked by bimbos in peekaboo Santa skirts, he tells wide-eyed youngsters that Jews worship Satan and sacrifice gentile children just like them. Chief Bloomenbergansteinthal (Peter Coyote), head of the Jewish Justice League, is desperate. The chairman of the Worldwide Jewish Media Conspiracy has nothing to offer but another Adam Sandler movie and the Hammer quit the JJL — whose headquarters are, of course, shaped like a six-pointed star — a year ago rather than play by the organization's stupid rules. Fortunately, the Chief's comely daughter, comely Esther Bloomenbergansteinthal (Judy Greer), is on hand to persuade him to save Hannukah. Once the Hammer joins forces with old pal Mohammed (Mario Van Peebles) and the Kwanzaa Liberation Front, it's only a matter of time before Santa Damian gets his sorry ass kicked to the Wailing Wall and back. Make no mistake, writer-director Kesselman's lampoon, which began life as a film-school short, is erratically paced and full of gags that fall flat and lie there writhing. But the genius is in the details, from the fuzzy dreidels hanging from the rear-view mirror of Hammer's low-slung blue-and-white Cadillac to the scene in which he uses his retzuos to scale the wall of Santa's village. There's even a cameo by Melvin Van Peebles, whose blistering SWEET SWEETBACK'S BAADASSSSS SONG (1971) inspired the film's dedication to "all the brothers and sisters who have had enough of the gentile." leave a comment --Maitland McDonagh

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