We've had the earnest, ponderous round of films about post-9/11 America – and most of them have sunk without trace at the box office. Now, barely six years after the attacks that triggered two wars and sent America's international reputation plummeting, it's time for the comedies.
There's no guarantee, of course, that these will fare any better, but, with some, that won't be for the want of an almost heroic lack of taste. They could just put to rest the opinion, put forward by Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter and much echoed among America's intellectual elite, that September 11 made irony impossible.
Take Postal, a crass comedy of al-Qa'ida manners directed by Uwe Boll, a man frequently honoured with the label "worst film-maker alive". The film starts with two September 11 hijackers arguing about the exact number of virgins awaiting them as martyrs in paradise. They raise Osama bin Laden himself on their cellphone and, when he tells them they can expect no more than 20 virgins, they decide to change course and head to the Bahamas.
Funny? Maybe not. But it is more or less guaranteed to cause enough offence to spill days' or weeks' worth of ink in the gossip press and on cable news. Bin Laden is played by Larry Thomas, who was the infamous "soup Nazi" on Seinfeld. It also features, if you please, "a gang of bosomy commandos who face off against Bin Laden and the Taliban in an epic battle that will determine the fate of the world."
If that doesn't sound moronic enough, then try Harold and Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay, latest in a burgeoning film series about two irredeemable potheads and their adventures. It's been widely described as "Cheech and Chong meet the war on terror", and human rights campaigners concerned about everything from suicides to due process at the Guantanamo prison camp are not amused. And then there's Zombie Strippers, which casts the porn actress Jenna Jameson in an explicit caper which begins with the US military reviving dead soldiers to carrying on fighting in Iraq.
More obviously engaging is Morgan Spurlock's follow-up to his hit documentary about fast-food hell, Super Size Me. The new film, out this weekend in the United States, is called Where in the World Is Osama bin Laden? and it follows Spurlock on his travels to Egypt, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Israel, Afghanistan and Pakistan on the decidedly whimsical trail of America's most wanted man. He doesn't find him, of course, but he speaks to enough ordinary Middle Easterners – everyone from rug salesmen to imams – to demystify both Bin Laden himself and the Middle East as a whole.
Perhaps the most promising of the upcoming crop is War Inc., a zany satire about war profiteering starring and co-written by John Cusack. It's the story of a hit man hired by a company not unlike Halliburton to take over an entire Middle Eastern country.
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