‘America: Imagine the World Without Her’ * 1/2
At the start of “America: Imagine the World Without Her,” Gen. George Washington is killed by a British sniper. He's one of the few targets that takes a direct hit in conservative pundit Dinesh D'Souza's scattershot movie.
The polemical documentary is a companion piece to the author's new book, which bears the same title. The movie version was written and directed by D'Souza and John Sullivan, who previously collaborated on “2016: Obama's America,” an under-the-radar box-office hit two years ago.
The writer, who narrates, hasn't actually crafted an alternate-history fable in which the British quashed the American Revolution. He quickly abandons that intriguing but messily open-ended premise in favor of an argument with the political left. He lists some of their claims against the U.S. – that it's racist, expansionist, imperialist, colonialist – and then sort of refutes them.
The film summarizes the charges of such strident critics of American society and policies as Howard Zinn, Noam Chomsky and Ward Churchill, some of whom appear briefly. They share screen time with actors who impersonate Washington, Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass, as well as Alexis de Tocqueville, the French political thinker who toured the United States more than 180 years ago.
For those who resent the left, “America” provides some rousing moments. D'Souza includes a clip in which U2's Bono, known as an advocate of Third World anti-poverty efforts rather than a proponent of First World superiority, calls the United States “a great idea” and praise from the likes of de Tocqueville.
D'Souza sketches harsh portraits of such right-wing bogeymen as Hillary Clinton, community organizer Saul Alinsky and, of course, Barack Obama. Yet he often arrives at uncontroversial conclusions. Conceding that slavery was wrong, and that his cherished America sometimes slipped into empire-building mode, D'Souza suggests that the United States is a good country that has done some bad things.
This is likely what most Americans believe. And that includes any of those progressives who, D'Souza supposes, would rather live in a world in which the United States was never born.