Projections - Movie Reviews
With Jim Sabatini


Religulous

Religulous

Rated: R 
Reviewed by: Jim  
Release date: October 3, 2008 Released by: Lions Gate Films

This new documentary combines the talents of Larry Charles (Borat) and talk-show host/comedian Bill Maher.

The controversial, fast-moving Religulous (rhymes with ridiculous) skewers the spiritually earnest around the globe and seems to tap into the needs of the many. The way of the world hasn't changed much over to time with fear, brutality, and prejudice always in the righteous way of humanity.

Maher, a disciple of the late George Carlin, as his politics and HBO show would indicate, pulls no punches on this incisive libertarianism. And, based on the reactions to his dialogue and questions, he is more than amused by some of the reactions.

This snappy social criticism with plenty of lively debating will obviously irk many even with its attraction to the Michael Moore fan base. The best of the talking heads when it comes to this insightful, personal confrontation has to be religous truck drivers, as well as a retired priest and a Vatican astronomer. Many won't like hearing of the mythology of "The Greatest Story Ever Told" years before it was purportedly written.

The ambitious production moves around from where the world may end (Megiddo, Israel), as well as midwest America, and the Vatican, in addition to the Holy Land. The use of two cameras is a stylistic aid, which goes to show the effort to whittle down what must have been quite a chunk of footage.

Christianity is given precedence in the early reels with Maher reflecting on his life when it comes to being raised by his family in New Jersey as a Catholic. His Jewish mom, Julie (having passed after filming), and sister Kathy offer their thoughts, as the parents left the church.

Proselytizing and the importance of faith comes up in a candid, sometimes profound way in conversation with the likes of Raleigh, N.C. parishoners, John Wescott, and evangelical (Arkansas Democratic) Senator Mark Pryor.

The clever editing relishes the poking at many international denominations, save for the major Eastern ones, with interviewees getting the subtitle treatment, with movie clips among antecedents referencing tenets and stereotyping, especially of Israel.

Near the somber close that may put many patrons in a lather, there is much jabbing of Judaism, Scientology, Muslim, and Islam, with the latters ones, in their contemporary, often extremist forms.

As vexing and snarky as Maher may be, he has some pungent, aggressive asides that probes into something exposed as more damaging than rewarding. His points hit the mark even with gags that ooze foolishness in this morally encompassing if intensely fantastical antidote to The Passion of the Christ.

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Religulous        B+                  B+ 

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