Movie review: '2016' film a conservative vision of Barack Obama's second term

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According to weekend box office figures, Dinesh D'Souza's slickly packaged political documentary "2016: Obama's America," released to coincide with the Republican convention, made a relatively strong showing alongside "The Expendables 2" and "Premium Rush."

Preaching to the choir, and quoting from the choir -- Mr. D'Souza's interviewees include conservative think-tankers, commentators and academics -- the film asks the question, "If Obama wins a second term, where will we be in 2016?" then posits some disturbing answers. Disturbing, but dubious.

Mr. D'Souza, stars in, narrates and conducts the interviews (some via cell phone) in "2016," which expands on the controversial premise of his book, "The Roots of Obama's Rage," and a 2010 Forbes article, "How Obama Thinks."


'2016: Obama's America'

2 stars = Mediocred
Ratings explained
  • Rating: PG for thematic elements, brief language and smoking images.

Basically, Mr. D'Souza -- who opens with a genial checklist of similarities between himself and the president (age, mixed-race heritage, Ivy League education) -- suggests that President Barack Obama is running the country based on the radical geopolitical tenets laid down by his Kenyan father in the 1960s, a father Mr. Obama hardly knew.

Here's how Mr. D'Souza, an Indian-American evangelical Christian who introduces himself in the film as "a writer, speaker, thinker," concluded his Forbes piece: "Our President is trapped in his father's time machine. Incredibly, the U.S. is being ruled according to the dreams of a Luo tribesman of the 1950s. This philandering, inebriated African socialist, who raged against the world for denying him the realization of his anticolonial ambitions, is now setting the nation's agenda through the reincarnation of his dreams in his son.

"The son makes it happen, but he candidly admits he is only living out his father's dream. The invisible father provides the inspiration, and the son dutifully gets the job done. America today is governed by a ghost."

Mr. Obama "candidly" admitting he is living out his father's dream is a reference, of course, to the president's best-selling memoir, "Dreams From My Father," excerpts of which are read in the film, by Mr. D'Souza or by Mr. Obama himself, from the CD edition.

In a sit-down with NYU psychologist Paul Vitz, Mr. D'Souza hears the professor's thoughts on absent fathers and how they can shape the psyche and thinking of their sons. He goes from there to paint a picture of a world where the nations of the Middle East, including Libya, Syria and Iran, band into "the United States of Islam," threatening the security of the United States and the world.

The film, co-directed by Mr. D'Souza and John Sullivan (who produced Ben Stein's 2008 doc about creationism), deploys an animated graphic similar to the creeping-Communism maps of Southeast Asia that were used to justify the war in Vietnam.

Mr. Obama, it is implied, is deliberately making America more vulnerable to attack from Muslim extremists. No mention is made of the fact that it was under Mr. Obama's watch that Osama bin Laden was killed.

Mr. D'Souza travels to Indonesia, where Mr. Obama lived with his mother as a boy (and where Mr. D'Souza sits at a street cafe, reading Mr. Obama's book), and to Nairobi, where he unsuccessfully seeks out an interview with Sarah Obama, the president's aunt, but does score a park-bench chat with George Obama, his half-brother. The filmmaker tries to elicit rage from the semi-sibling, who appears to live in a shantytown setting, about Barack Obama not doing more to take care of him.

The documentary isn't all theory and conjecture. An interview with David M. Walker, the U.S. comptroller general from 1998 to 2008, presents a sobering picture of the national debt and what it might portend for our future.

Author and commentator Shelby Steele makes some provocative, pointed observations about the role race played in Mr. Obama's election. And footage of a town hall-style meeting in which the president fumbles -- and fumbles, and fumbles -- in his attempt to explain the economic benefits of his Affordable Care Act should warm the hearts of Obamacare foes.

But even the staunchest anti-Obama factions should be wary of the fallacious content flying around in Mr. D'Souza's film, now in select Pittsburgh theaters.

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