Conservative thinking-type person Dinesh D'Souza tries to unravel the mystery of Obama the President by investigating Obama the man — or rather, Obama the son of his anticolonial father. The film gets off to an interesting start: D'Souza is an ingratiating investigator, and he pays a fair amount of attention to primary sources. Yes, we get the occasional comment from this psychologist or that historian, but mostly we hear from Obama's family, people who knew Obama's family, and most pertinently, Obama himself, in passages taken from his autobiography Dreams from My Father. After a while, it's hard to argue with D'Souza's claim that young Obama surrounded himself with people who thought like his father and/or were no great fans of the American empire. But as with the article in Forbes that served as the film's seed material, the early interesting stuff gets undermined by the over-the-top ending. Yes, D'Souza makes the case that it's worth considering Obama's genealogical and intellectual inheritance in assessing his governance. But he does not make the case for what follows: that Obama wants to weaken America's influence abroad and cripple its economic engines at home. Drone attacks? Bank bailout? Nary a mention here. Instead, we get a nightmare-fuel map of the United States of Islam, a thorny vine 'round its borders, a pair of crossed scimitars at its heart. What began as an intriguing assessment of a powerful, enigmatic man ends as a political ad for the party of Anyone But Obama. (2012) — Matthew Lickona
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