Friday, February 13, 2009


"Religulous" is a docu-comedy, somewhere between being like that of Michael Moore and Borat. I went in expecting to hate it. The concept of lampooning religion in a Borat-like manner seemed in poor taste to me, but then I watched the film, and was surprised to not hate it, and often laughed.

Now, here's why I didn't hate it: Bill Maher openly adresses the audience what his views are - that he believes Religion to be a detrimental farce, and then he states that the purpose of this documentary is to find out why people believe in religion. Well, here's a secret, his purpose really isn't so much finding out the why, so much as pushing his views of, "come on, we really don't know" to try to cast doubt in his subjects. So, he flip-flops from being nice to them, to attacking their beliefs. Surprisingly, in one instance of extreme attack, brings his subject to hearty laughs.

Yes, Bill Maher is a bit of an ass to his subjects, but he's also consistent - attacking even people who, to me, seemed like he'd agree with. And, sometimes he leaves them speechless, and sometimes they leave him speechless. The most interesting subjects I found were the two Vatican priests who seemed to be wearing attack-proof vests, or something. They were amused by all his assumptions on Christianity, agreed with all he found ridiculous, namely taking the Bible 100% literally. They put him in his place a bit in the sense that Maher wasn't so much attacking Christianity, but an interpretation of it, though, I'd imagine it's the interpretation that most follow. One of the Vatican priests even states that the Bible shouldn't be interpreted as science and I'm betting he also believes in evolutionism, which I'm sure the other Vatican priest also believes.

It should also be noted that Maher doesn't just attack Christianity, but more time is spent on it, and his attacks on the others aren't quite as thorough, and some are easy targets.

The film does go on and on a bit, and uses the occasional tasteless gimick (some out of place subtitles and sound cues), and has two endings.

The first ending addresses the purpose of the film that he stated at the beginning, then the second ending addresses his real reason for the film - that he believes religion is promoting the end of the world and will itself end up being the cause, then he goes on a preachy rant for about 5 or 10 minutes. I liked the first ending, but if he wants to stick with his second, well, it's his film.

So, did I enjoy the film? Yes, I did, but I don't think it'll change too many peoples' minds about religion. Essentially, what you have is a lone missionary preaching his religion of "I don't know, and neither should you". It's an amusing point of view, brings some pretty good laughs, and ends with his closing sermon. If a person's not in his religion, it would be like walking into another religion's church. They might prefer it, and join, but unlike their own religion, the religion of "I don't know" doesn't promise anything cool in the afterlife - no chilling with Jesus, or 100 virgins, or planet of your own. The film actually addresses this, so it knows the film's somewhat futile. Frankly, the film shouldn't be seen as all that controversial, and I think the movie's fine with that. Controversial or not, the film simply wants to present its views. And, I personally appreciated its presentation, regardless of whether or not I agreed with it. Maher, along with every religion, has a right to present their viewpoint, even if Maher doesn't give the others much of a chance.

7.5/10 (if you really must need a rating...)

Author: J-P