The Hebrew Hammer

The Hebrew Hammer.  Jericho Entertainment 2003.
The Hebrew Hammer. Jericho Entertainment 2003.

Before watching the movie:

I do recall seeing pieces of this on TV in college, but never more than a moment here and there because I only caught it at the beginning once and I didn’t have the time to watch it then.

I think this involves saving Hanukkah. I’m not entirely sure about that right now, but I thought I’d do a Hanukkah movie, and how many Hanukkah movies are there anyway? I wouldn’t know, as it’s not actually my tradition. I can only think of one definite one I’d really rather not see.

But anyway, what this definitely is is a Jewish parody of Blaxploitation films. Kind of like Shaft if he was Chosen instead of black. Well, more like the remake of Shaft maybe.

After watching the movie:

When known Christmas supremacist Damien Claus assassinates his father (the Santa who instituted the Happy Holidays tolerance program) and usurps his red cap, the Jewish Justice League has only one hero they can turn to to save Hanukkah: Mordechai Jefferson Carver, the Hebrew Hammer. A detective keeping the streets safe for Judaism. The JJL chief’s daughter, Esther Bloomenbergensteinenthal, tries to convince him to help, but he refuses to help the JJL until it becomes something he can do to spite his mother. Backed up by the Kwanzaa Liberation Front, the Hammer goes deep into Christian territory to stop Damien’s evil plan.

Everything that can be said about Jews and comedy and self-deprecation has been, often in very entertaining ways. The best jokes about Judaism are by Jews, for Jews, and this plays the stereotypes to the hilt. There were quite a few I either never would have thought of or never knew about. It’s also spoof-level satire of the relationship between Jews and Gentiles, from smug white people unaware of how ignorant they are in their blind “tolerance” (“everyone wish Mordechai a happy tchanu-KUah Nightfour”) to even the vicious slander Damien uses to get children on his side. I’m really not qualified to assess how successful the affectionate parody of Jewish life and culture is, but I found the point of view funny and thought-provoking.

I always thought Andy Dick was Jewish for some reason. His neurotic style of humor seemed to play into a type some Jewish comedians tend to specialize in. However, looking it up for this review, I find that he was raised Presbyterian. I also found that he’s stated he’s bisexual, which complicates how I feel about the decision to have a joke insinuating that Damien the “religiously insane” villain is sleeping with his male minion. Sometimes 2003 seems like a very long time ago.

While this movie is about keeping Hanukkah alive, it also mocks inclusivity for inclusivity’s sake. I can’t really say I disagree to a certain extent. There needs to be recognition that not everybody keeps the same cultural traditions, but there’s also a point where enforcing that recognition is just as ignorant as monoculturalism. Until people start decorating pines for Memorial Day, that’s not a Holiday Tree. There’s a difference between observing other holidays (or observing that they are observed) and throwing them in to tick off a box (it’s fine to recognize that Kwanzaa is going to happen, but understand what it is and don’t treat it as Christmas for the Religion of Blackness). And as Mordechai’s mother even points out, Hanukkah’s not even a high holiday. Its importance is inflated because it’s close to Christmas. Which itself is celebrated when it is because it was close to an important solstice-based festival. Regardless, the time and the the words aren’t important, it’s the meaning we bestow upon it. So we need to put some thought into how we include others in the season of celebration. More thought than I did when I said “how about doing a Hanukkah movie this year?”

I’ve really walked away from the movie now. So. Warm wishes in the coldest (Northern Hemisphere) season, and enlightenment in the darkest days.

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