This black comedy answers the question that has obsessed America and The World since November 8th, 2016, How did Donald Trump become President of the United States? This is Param Gill’s political satire of the Trump presidency, Bad President.
For 60 years we have used political satire to shape events and to destroy leaders, but since that time both politics and the media have changed beyond recognition. Sarcasm and mockery no longer hold the power they once did, while the targets of these attacks are now able to escape the disdain and ridicule seemingly unharmed, as long as they have a strong enough brand. Param Gill’s Bad President takes aim at one of the biggest brands on the planet, Donald Trump, and by creating a comedy fantasy film that tips its hat to Clash of the Titans, Game Of Thrones, and Bedazzled, it attempts to poke fun at his run to the White house.
Opening in February of 2015, in what can only be described as a cluttered warehouse hell, we are introduced to Luther, the movie’s version of the devil played by comedian Eddie Griffin. Griffin has worked with some of America’s biggest comedy stars including Eddie Murphy and Dave Chappelle, and he has a great deal of fun with the role, playing his Beelzebub as a sort of evil Morgan Freeman, sitting on his Iron throne surrounded by his minions, known as Anger, Misery, and Shame. Griffin appears in many different guises during the film and always chews just the right amount of scenery. It’s a role you can easily see his pal Eddie Murphy devouring also.
Together, the devil and his minions try to come up with ideas on how to unleash chaos onto an unsuspecting world and what they could use as the cause of it. Luther decides that after Hitler came so close, the next person they should turn their attention to is Donald J Trump.
Jeff Rector plays Trump and, despite not looking like him physically, his voice and demeanour are perfect along with the brash Trump attitude and the narcissistic personality; it’s all there in an excellent turn. Although the movie is fantasy, all the famous Trump associates appear throughout played by actors who do look like the characters they are portraying, including Rupert Murdoch, Michael Cohen, Ivanka, Mike Bloomberg, Melania, Eric Trump, Putin, and Sean Hannity – who, in one of the better puns, works for the Cox News Channel.
My personal favourite, although he appears intermittently, was Charles Christopher’s Anderson Cooper, who was great in both look and sound that I had to do a double-take. Also, we mustn’t forget the appearance by Stormy Daniels as herself, who delivers a really good and playful performance but, let’s be honest, if she can play with Trump she can play with anything.
The performances of all the cast are overall pretty decent, however, the low budget does hinder the project somewhat. Bad President comes across as a long SNL skit with the cinematography by Mark C Andrews not helping shake this comparison. The visuals aren’t particularly cinematic and the choice of scenes has no real scope, they mainly consist of medium shots making the production feel more like a TV special, but that said, it is certainly better than the worst SNL films.
Param Gil’s direction allows his actors to flourish, there are a few decent gags, but most of the laughs come from Trump’s own words paraphrased by either Rector as Trump or in scenes that involve the supporting cast. Gil doesn’t pull any punches though as his script runs the gamut of Trump’s greatest hits – Mexicans, Muslims, genital grabbing, McCain’s a loser, Misogyny, tax returns, etc. etc. The problem Gil has is that these ‘jokes’ have no punchline anymore, mainly because we have heard them all before and heard even worse since this film was made.
Which brings us back to the power of satire, which in Bad President simply isn’t strong enough to make an impact. You might think that Gil’s film and Rector’s Trump impression confirms that Donald Trump is unfit to be President, but for Trump supporters, the same film and moments merely reinforce their gut feeling that Trump is not a member of the political elite but a decent guy with human flaws.
Param Gil’s Bad President is well-timed and worth a watch to jog your memory about how absurd the past four years have been, but don’t expect any major revelations. Bad President doesn’t take Trump to the cleaners, it merely dusts him down and puts him back in the closet.