THE OATH: 2 ½ STARS. “leans toward broad comedy rather than insight.”
The actor Ike Barinholtz is best known for playing the dim-witted Morgan Tookers on “The Mindy Project.” What’s less known is that in real life Barinholtz is a news junkie who was inspired to write his new film, “The Oath,” during the first Thanksgiving Dinner following Donald Trump’s 2016 electoral victory.
This Thanksgiving is set against a backdrop of sweeping new legislation that will affect every American. Called the Patriot’s Oath, it’s a document the government expects every red-blooded American to sign as a declaration of their loyalty. One couple, the hot-headed ideologue Chris (Barinholtz) and his unflappable wife Kai (Tiffany Haddish), refuse to sign. As their extended family, including Chris’s sister Alice (Carrie Brownstein), conservative brother Pat (Jon Barinholtz) and his Tomi-Lahren-Lite girlfriend Abbie (Meredith Hagner), convene just days before the Loyalty Pledge signing deadline, the situation spirals out of control. Two officers from the Citizen’s Protection Unit (John Cho and Billy Magnussen) show up at Chris and Kai’s front door, armed with questions, toxic masculinity and a disregard for the law.
“The Oath” is part political satire, part home invasion movie. Pitched just a hair under hysterical, it’s a timely dark comedy that seeks to shine a light on the political chasm that divides the left and right wings. Under some well-crafted jokes bubbles a righteous rage worthy of Alex Jones if he leaned left rather than alt-right. Barinholtz uses a sledgehammer to explore the basis of belief, the very thing that can either bring us together or, more often than not, tear us apart. Subtle it is not.
“The Oath” doesn’t dig much deeper than that, however. It skims the surface of how divisive politics drives wedges between friends and family but tends to lean toward broad comedy to make its point rather than insight.