THE HEBREW HAMMER2003"I thank you, Gentile friend, for your generous offer of that deliciously unkosher snack."
-- Mordechai Jefferson Carver
The Hebrew Hammer is a 2003 comedy directed by Jonathan Kesselman that pits the Christmas holiday against the Jewish holiday of Hannukah. Growing up as a Jewish boy was never easy for Mordechai Jefferson Carver (Adam Goldberg), who dealt with oppression from the likes of Christians as they celebrated Christmas at the same time he celebrated Hannukah. As he grew older, he turned himself into the Hebrew Hammer and started to take to the streets to protect his Jewish kin from the likes of Christian persecution. One day, however, he hears from the Jewish Justice League (JJL) that Santa's son Damian Claus (Andy Dick), the new heir to the Santa Claus throne, has decided to destroy the Hannukah celebration completely. In an attempt to stop his evil plot, the Hammer joins with Esther Bloomenbergensteinenthal (Judy Greer) and Kwanzaa-celebrating friend Mohammed Ali Paula Abdul Rahim (Mario Van Peebles) to keep the Jewish holiday intact.
Over the past few years, I've caught snippets of The Hebrew Hammer on television from time to time, but I had never taken the opportunity to watch it in its entirety. Seeing as it was readily accessible on NetFlix's Instant Watch playlists, I figured now was as good a time as any. I figured I could add a little bit of Hannukah flavor to my barrage of Christmas posts, and considering this film offers a semblance of a battle between the two holidays, I felt as though it fit the mold of the types of reviews I've been bringing lately.
That being said, I don't think I could honestly recommend that anyone watch this film. It takes nearly every Jewish stereotype you can imagine and lampoons it so strongly that it almost feels like a hate crime to enjoy it. The storyline itself is a legitimate one: we have a crazy, anti-Semitic Santa who wants Christmas to be the reigning - and sole - holiday in December, so he creates a plan to rid the world of the Jewish holiday. Also, considering this film is a play off the old blaxploitation films of the 1970s, you can see that there's that sort of feel to the film. However, with the nearly non-stop jokes about the habits and livelihood of Jewish people in the United States, it's a little tough to take anything even remotely seriously in this one. It all seems like just a tad too much. It's just too over-the-top.
The acting isn't all that fantastic, although each character does relatively fit the stereotypical mold they're attempting to create. Goldberg does well enough as our lead, but he gets a little too annoying about halfway through the film. The same goes for Andy Dick, who is really an acquired taste more than anything else. I'm finding fewer and fewer people are still fans of his brand of comedy, and I think this film serves as a staple as to why those few fans are leaving. The female leads in the film actually fare rather well considering the way their roles are written. Greer plays off Goldberg exceptionally well, and Nora Dunn, who plays Mordechai's mother, offers some of the better laughs during the movie. However, the best performance probably belongs to Van Peebles, who stays with his character religiously and plays him out very well.
Ultimately, The Hebrew Hammer just isn't that great of a movie, and it's consistent attack against the Jewish holiday and everyday traditions is just a little too much to consider this film an effective spoof. That being said, however, I couldn't help but find myself chuckling from time to time, mostly at the over-the-top ridiculousness of the film. So, if you're in the mood for some such fare, then maybe this irreverent, no-holds-barred comedy is right up your alley. I just want you to know that you have been forewarned.
Movie Review Summary