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Hanukkah is under threat from Christmas, thanks to Santa's evil son (Andy Dick) murdering his father to take over the Christams franchise. The private dick known as The Hebrew Hammer, Mordachai Jefferson Carver (Adam Gould) is recruited to do the job by Esther (Judy Greer) on behalf of the Jewish Justice League, whose chief is her father (Peter Coyote).

Review by Andrew L. Urban
The Hebrew Hammer is a broadly comedic sorta Yiddish Shaft, using stereotypes as a bouncing board (or dartboard), its references to the Mike Hammer genre pulsating on its sleeve (as are its references to slapstick comedy). But don't think the jokes are all at non-Jews' expense; Kesselman targets every known Jewish caricature as well as the Santa clause. Peter Coyote revels in his oversized, eye-patched role as the fanatical Jewish leader, and Adam Gould plays it deadpan, in a cross between a tough guy and whinging stereotype. (And watch for the final test of his Jewishness with a 'whining meter'.) Happily offensive to anyone within smiling distance, the film spoofs the brothers, the spiks and the kikes with equal abandon.

You have to submit to the film's energetic enthusiasm for its own sense of humour. Like the moment when a dastardly plan is hatched involving bootleg copies of Frank Capra's It's A Wonderful Life. This is one of the myriad movie references that drive Kesselman's screenplay.

The hamfisted humour would get tiresome if he didn't move the pace with the sense of a firecracker, but some of the lines are truly inspired and original, as are some of the scene set ups. In a way, you can see it as a series of stand up routines for film, complete with self deprecating humour.

The soft spots drag the film down about the middle, and the jokes start to seem repetitive, but there's a rescue remedy in a pseudo sex scene in which the Hammer is asked to talk dirty - which for him is not the same as for you and I.

Kesselman finds inspiration for some new gags (stunt elves wearing Stunt Elf T shirts), the editing gives the film enough pace to keep it moving with a sense of fun - and of course, a good dose of the ultimate Jewish weapon: guilt. Go with the flow.

Published: July 22, 2004

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CAST: Adam Goldberg, Judy Greer, Andy Dick, Mario Van Peebles, Peter Coyote, Nora Dunn

DIRECTOR: Jonathan Kesselman

SCRIPT: Jonathan Kesselman

RUNNING TIME: 80 minutes




DVD RELEASE: May 28, 2004

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