If you don’t like Bill Maher then you are not going to like this film. If you are sympathetic to the cause of religion then you are also not going to like this film. If you think that the comedic methods of Sasha Baran Cohen are unfair, then that’s just another reason you will think that this is a shitty movie. However, if you are like me— an comedy-loving atheist who thinks that Maher makes a good point, even though he’s using the camera as a weapon—then see this film.
In 13 Words
Bill Maher Smugly But Entertainingly Enumerates The Batshittyness Of Religious Fanatics Around World.
What I thought
Sometimes I think that we could solve a lot of problems in entertainment by getting a few more categories than “documentary” and “narrative.” There are films that fall into neither definitions, and Religulous is one of them. Like a lot of movies it touts itself as a documentary because it’s not a fiction film. It’s filmmaking in the vein of Borat, where truth is ultimately in the hands of the editors and director. They pick and choose from facial expressions and pregnant pauses in order to paint the humorous picture that best suits the story’s arc. Luckily we have Larry Charles making those decisions. The cutaways to file footage and news are reminiscent of TV Nation. It’s a documentary insofar as Larry Charles is capable of making one. The wide shots that reveal the camera and boom remind us that they are not documenting truth; they are making their own. And it’s hilarious.
The biggest criticism that will be lobbed at this film regards Maher’s signature style of interview arrogance. It’s a worthy point—he often shakes his head and rolls his eyes in complete smugness, shutting down the possibility that others might make a valid point. What saves it, though, is the way he does seem to have an affinity for the people with which he engages. As much as he may despise their opinions, he never seems to despise them as people, busting their balls in an almost endearing way. We see this at his best in his interview with the official Vatican Astronomer. Yes, the Vatican has an astronomer.
The Voice Of God
Whatever your take on attitude or method, you have to agree that films of this type are important, and increasingly valid in a world seemingly hell-bent on destruction. It makes you consider that there are practically two different Americas at this point. One that is capable of rational and informed decision about the collective good of a nation facing a multitude of crises, and another that might salivate at the prospect of visiting a Jesusland Theme Park. And although this film does not provide a platform for the hundreds of millions of people around the world that believe in non violence and religious tolerance, it doesn’t matter. They’re not part of this story. I say See It, because you are going to laugh. I give it 8/10 False Idols.
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