Tuesday, October 7, 2008

"You don't have to pass an IQ test to be in the Senate."

Religulous-2008-Larry Charles

George Michaels once sang, "You gotta have faith", but with Religulous what Bill Maher is singing is the exact opposite. Maher claims his message is doubt, and he stands by that message with a certainty. The question that remains, does Religulous actually try to answer questions or is it just poking fun at those who believe differently?

The wonderful thing about this documentary is that Maher seems more courteous than I thought. He isn't attacking anyone. All that Maher does is honestly and truthfully ask the questions that lie deeply on his heart. Even going as far to thank some truckers for being "Christ-like and not just Christian" and saying that they are smart people.

This could possibly be the funniest film to be released all year, and oddly enough the most serious. Not serious in the way things are portrayed, but in the severity of the questions being asked. Maher simply wants to know how anyone can know for SURE that what they believe is true. I could relate. I grew up in a Christian family and went to a Baptist school for most of my life. I was hammered daily with knowing what I believe and standing firm in that belief. While I agree that any one's beliefs shouldn't be easily wavered, I do have degrees of doubt that I cannot ignore. I do have faith in a hope that there is a God who's son, Jesus Christ, died on the cross. While I believe this to be true, I cannot say with 100% certainty that it is the absolute truth. In my heart I believe it to be, but you get what I am saying.

I also understand Maher's complaint that with someone in office that believes the end days are upon us making decisions based upon those beliefs it can be scary, especially to some who doubts that there is even a God at all.

Maher's humor in Religulous stems mostly from the people he interviews. A Puerto Rican man claiming to be the 2nd coming of Christ who happens to have 100,000 followers. He questions rich pastors about why Jesus said the rich shall not enter the kingdom of heaven, and they deny that it specifically says those words. He interviews fake Jesus, and gay Muslim activists. The list goes on and on.

While Maher is generally very cordial, I think the editing at times is so blatantly one sided that it is distracting. Sometimes it is overly obvious that that was not an answer to a question or that was not the correct context that I grow more and more disappointed. On the other hand, the subtitles and cut-aways were always gut bustingly hilarious and truthful.

I think Charles did a much better job in Religulous than with Borat simply because he allowed the true nature of the humor to speak for itself. In Borat he tended to throw in Jackass style humor every once in awhile that took away from the films satirical outlook.

While Religulous is utterly one-sided I like Maher's honesty in his monologues, especially his final monologue discussing doubt. I think this film is important for the religious and non religious to see and discuss. Instead, I fear we will find the religious condemning while the non-religious get a sense of pride knowing they are "above" these stupid religious type. Both sides being at fault. If that does happen it won't be the films fault because the film graciously asks for a dialogue between believers and nonbelievers, using intellect and intelligence(disregarding Kirk Cameron's comments about going around intellect).


Fletch said...

I love Maher, but even I think you're being too light on him. Then again, I think many others have been way too critical of him, forgetting that, first and foremost, the man is a comedian and always has been. No, he's not mean and no, he and the film are not (ultimately) fair, but, as you say, it's a damn funny film (which I think we all should be able to agree on) and that's what matters most here.

Regardless of their tactics, I do believe that he and Charles have their hearts in the right place. The end of days bits scare me to death, and as someone who shares Maher's ideology, it can be more than frustrating to watch it unfold, especially as we're constantly told how much of the country agrees with GW's beliefs (not that all do, of course).

Excellent even-handed review, and thanks for sharing your history. I went to Catholic school from K-12, and the result of all that hammering was me having enough of it by around grade 9. I get "worse" by the day, but I try not to be too much of an ass about it...

Dead Pan said...

I understand I was pretty light on him, but with all the criticism thrown at him the other way I didn't want to add fuel to the fire. I didn't want to be upset because I believe some of the things he attacks. I knew if I was going to fairly review this film I had to have an open mind.

As for being driven the other way by grade 9. I had that same feeling but eventually learned new things and came to be at a different place than where I was taught to be. Though I can totally understand why someone would want nothing to do with it. Thanks for not being an ass about it. haha