Vol. 3, Issue #20 Oct. 24th - Nov. 7th, 2008

Religulous (Lionsgate Films)
Film Review By: Wilhelm Murg

Full disclosure: I am an atheist to the point that I don’t even trust science. I used to love Bill Maher, but I stopped watching his show last year because is became too much like every other political show; here’s the Republican representative, here’s the Democrat, and they’re going to yell at each other - I find reruns of “Three’s Company” to be more intellectually stimulating! I laughed out loud maybe twice at director Larry Charles’ very popular “Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan,” but I found most of the film to be tiring, and some of the humor even seemed dangerous. I’m not sure the average audience member was sophisticated enough to understand that the anti-Semitic satire was not meant to be anti-Semitic.

“Religulous” is Maher’s new documentary that tramples other peoples’ religious belief. Some of it is entirely justified, like the morons who try to use science to prop up their “faith,” and thus have an amusement park dedicated to showing how humans lived with dinosaurs, like in “The Flintstones.” There’s the “former”-Homosexual minister who still seems a queer as a $3 bill - and yes, in his case I believe he obviously made “a decision” to be straight. The great balance in the film are a couple of priests from the Vatican, one who is an astronomer who says the church does not take the Bible literally, and another who explains that the Bible is just a bunch of stories.

However there are some innocent victims in the film, such as a truckers’ church where one man rightfully walks out on Maher’s attempt to turn the guys on to free thought. I don’t blame the man for leaving, there’s no real reason for Maher to interrupt a service held by these men of simple faith. Personally, I see no difference in a fellow atheist bullying a religious person and a Christian bullying a non-believer; fanaticism comes in many guises.

One major flaw with the film is that it fails to tell a story. Maher and Charles’ canvas is so large that while they take on Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Scientology, and Mormonism, they don’t even mention Hinduism, Buddhism, or the hundreds of little tribal sects throughout the world. Instead of a story, the documentary is supporting a rant. And like Michael Moore, who I also used to like, it’s smugly preaching at the converted. The ultimate sin the film commits is that it’s not that funny. As we learned from Lenny Bruce, once the rants start coming the humor takes a backseat, and Maher seems to be getting further and further away from his roots as time goes on.

If you are a fan of Maher and sympathetic to the subject matter, the film is worth a look, but most of the world can wait for it to come out on cable.

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