Tracking Shots


Expanded from his student short, Jonathan Kesselman’s first feature conflates two particular Jewish American mindsets—the longing for a superhero savior and the alienation experienced at Christmastime. The result is explicit, if less than hilarious. The Hebrew Hammer lacks the edge of Adam Sandler’s “Chanukah Song,” although as anti-seasonal fare, it would make a suitably unbearable double bill with Terry Zwigoff’s Bad Santa.

Santa, or rather his son Santa Damian (Andy Dick), is worse than bad. He’s an anti-Semite who stomps on a child’s dreidel, floods Jewish neighborhoods with bootleg tapes of It’s a Wonderful Life, and plots to destroy Chanukah. Defending the tribe against this “putz at the North Pole” is the Hebrew Hammer, private detective Mordechai Jefferson Carver (stoically played by Adam Goldberg). A “certified circumcised dick” whose favored kippah is an extra-wide-brimmed fedora, the Hammer strides with Shaftian sureness through his Borough Park ‘hood and later, in another Jewish fantasy, joins forces with the Kwanzaa Liberation Front. Superfly Humbug? Curmudgeons may imagine watching this movie in the company of Spike Lee. There’s even a cameo by Ed Koch.