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Promoting Palin: ‘The Undefeated’

The first thing that’s wrong with the new documentary glorifying former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin is the title.

“The Undefeated” profiles Palin’s rise as a national heroine to the tea party, but it fails to mention that she’s actually been defeated. Setting aside the 2008 presidential race when her party’s ticket did not claim the White House, Palin lost a 2002 GOP primary for lieutenant governor.

The flick, set to debut Tuesday in the small town of Pella, Iowa, is a flattering portrait of Palin as someone unafraid to take on her own party’s bosses. There’s little doubt Palin, who did not participate in production of “The Undefeated,” will be pleased with the final result. But it’s not a good film.

Roll Call recently viewed the movie at the RightOnline gathering of 1,500 conservative activists and bloggers hosted by Americans for Prosperity in Minneapolis.

Writer and director Stephen Bannon introduced the screening as a “rough cut” and explained the final film would be complete in time for the Iowa premiere.

It will open nationally July 15 in AMC Theaters in the following cities: Indianapolis; Independence, Mo.; Phoenix; Grapevine, Texas; Oklahoma City; Highlands Ranch, Colo.; Orange, Calif.; Houston and Orlando.

There’s plenty of political buzz about what the film might do to boost the potential presidential candidate. But that’s not likely to translate to Oscar buzz.

It was unclear whether the final version would still include some of the awkward generic images spliced throughout the documentary. For example, comments about wasteful government spending are paired with what appears to be stock footage of someone cutting into dollar bills with scissors, or cash being flushed down the toilet.

There are also snicker-inducing shots of angry crowds, lions in the wild feasting on a zebra, boxers in a ring and even a stern wagging finger to illustrate Palin’s tale.

The majority of the documentary details Palin’s early political career using old news archives and interviews with conservatives and Palin allies such as Thomas Van Flein, now a Capitol Hill staffer.

The movie opens with a photo montage and home videos showing Palin as a young girl and in her early teens. If you watched it without sound you might think it was a promotional video for the Wasilla Chamber of Commerce taped in the 1980s. Or perhaps an extended version of the now-canceled TLC show “Sarah Palin’s Alaska.”

The film is a bit misleading, given that it’s not actually a Palin production, though it might seem that way at times. The movie makers licensed audio rights to Palin’s autobiographical book “Going Rogue,” so it sounds as if the former governor is narrating her own tale.

Palin is heard saying that while it might be “corny,” she kept a framed black-and-white photo of Jimmy Stewart from “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” on her wall in Wasilla. “It’s a movie about the timeless truths of America handed down to us from our forefathers,” Palin says in the film in a section just after she discusses her gubernatorial victory.

Her voice is also heard as she talks about breaking tradition to select Fairbanks for her inauguration in honor of the Alaskan constitution.

Palin cheerleaders talk about how she fought Big Oil and special interests while serving on the Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, a post she ultimately quit in order to shine a spotlight on its corruption. Her allies say in the documentary the move “took a lot of guts,” while a 2004 newscast says Palin “blew the whistle on her own party.”

The final section of the film is devoted to the 2008 presidential race and Palin’s burst onto the national scene.

The few hundred RightOnline attendees at the screening were reserved with their applause and booed images of President Barack Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.). One audience member shouted, “Terrorist!” when Obama appeared on screen.

The crowd cheered for a clip of Palin as the vice presidential nominee declaring that she was “not a member of the permanent political establishment.”

Bannon said during his introduction that the documentary’s working title had been “Take a Stand,” in honor of the “values” Palin represents and the tea party movement.

“You’re the cutting edge of a revolution,” Bannon told the crowd. “It’s really a movie about you.”

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