Sunday, October 05, 2008


The best thing about going to see Religulous was that it was screening directly across the lobby from An American Carol (a movie that promises to be just as funny as The Half Hour News Hour, only extended to an actual hour and a half). The movies started at the same time, meaning both crowds milled in the lobby beforehand (lefties to the left, right wingers to the right). And they let out at the exact same time, so we got to look the other side in the eye as we left. Unfortunately no ideological fights broke out. It would have been a good story.

As for the movie itself, Religulous is generally entertaining. Bill Maher questions and/or mocks the major western religions for a while before spouting a heavy handed monologue about how religion will ultimately destroy us. The monologue is the most effective part of the movie, but it's a huge change in tone from the rest of the (mostly) non-serious material.

Sometimes Maher's tone in the individual interviews switches from genuine curiosity to out-and-out mocking which makes me a tad uncomfortable. He's certainly not going to convert any religious people with this film. It's strictly preaching to the choir.

Most of the movie consists of segments about quirky religious people and places. The Creationist Museum, The Holy Land amusement park in Orlando (where the torture and crucifixion of Jesus is set to Broadway-like musical numbers), or a lab in Israel that invents clever machines to circumnavigate God's rules on the Sabbath. None of it is exactly revelatory. Anyone who has an inkling about religion knows about these things already. The most fascinating moments are when the religious figures Maher interviews get caught up in the logical barriers of having to justify their beliefs. Now, some of the people just aren't very intelligent (a U.S. Senator), and one television evangelist attributes teachings of Christ that are nowhere to be found in the bible to justify his lavish attire. But even the scholars who clearly know what they're talking about at some point have to make a break from that intellect to explain their faith. It's baffling to watch.

I really enjoyed the movie. I think, like a Michael Moore movie, it's a bit too biased to be considered an effective documentary. Still, I'm encouraged that a movie with this subject matter came out in America. And even more so that there were no protests outside the theater, and that the sizable crowd in attendance reacted positively, even applauding at the end.


jeannieo said...

funny, that's not playing anywhere here in Lynchburg. Maybe it just hasn't opened yet. Or maybe I live in a town full of folks who are afraid to even acknowledge a world outside of their own sheltered lives...

Scott said...

Yeah, apparently it was a very limited opening this weekend. So I'm a little surprised that Knoxville got it.