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Caveats mar film that celebrates America's success

| Wednesday, July 23, 2014, 9:10 p.m.

It's hard to stand up and cheer an economic system that's merely “not as bad” as its critics say.

This is what moviemaker Dinesh D'Souza wants us to do by way of his brave documentary, “America: Imagine the World Without Her.”

Millions of business people and parents know full well there's no better country. Wouldn't they love, though, to have a two-hour video to prove it to their kids?

Imagine a “visual aid” that could overturn all the liberal bias and negativism indoctrinated in schools, media and popular culture. An entertaining detox at that! Young lazybones wouldn't even have to read a book to set them right.

But D'Souza's new film, virtuous and entertaining as it is, doesn't quite do it.

Growing up still has to be learned the long way. It takes work — at something the world wants done, not necessarily what would be fun — plus ability to snap back from mistakes and disappointments; willingness to take risks, put off pleasures and not waste too much money; and a dash of luck, too, to get the best out of the best of all countries.

Utopia it can never be. Success on a silver platter for everybody? Forget it.

But right there is the flaw in D'Souza's “America,” a most un-Hollywoodish film now running on a few suburban screens.

It tries too hard to assuage the left's longing for Utopia.

It tries to argue away the unquenchable disappointment of academics and opinion-makers that the United States falls short of perfection (never mind how far ahead we are in so many measures of life, liberty and pursuit of happiness). The negatives constantly get all the play.

Give credit to D'Souza, an immigrant from India, to rise to the defense of his adopted country.

Where he fails is in being too darn defensive. It is as if he's trying to win an election by answering all the other guy's negative ads. It uses up all his footage.

Thus, we're informed that Columbus' discovery of America shouldn't be blamed too much for the decimation of West Indians. Germs brought over from Europe killed most of them off. And yes, African slavery was a terrible thing, but there were freed Africans who also enslaved fellow Africans right on these shores. Plus thousands of white paupers from England trapped practically in slavery as “indentured servants.”

So it goes with D'Souza's energetic scrubbing of our poor besmirched country.

He gets some of the dirt off. You'll shake your head at Mexican-Americans who'd return a half-dozen U.S. states to the country we “stole” them from in the Mexican War. And at blacks who miss today's opportunities from too much anger at past victimization. And at great universities who let their students be misled by the slanted histories of a Howard Zinn and the riot goading of a Saul Alinsky.

Still, see D'Souza's heartfelt movie. But the best of life in America isn't an image on a screen. It's solid; it's real.

Jack Markowitz is a columnist for Trib Total Media. Email jmarkowitz@tribweb.com.

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