Friday, April 30, 2010

Bill Maher - Religulous - Review

I finally got around to seeing the movie Religulous with professional comedian commentator Bill Maher.

The title apparently arises from fusing the word Religion with Ridiculous.


The movie is not a very good documentary on the topic of Religion. In fact the whole point of the movie is to show Religion in an unfavorable light. That light is the opinion of the comedian’s pet peeve or pet gripe that religion is wrong or a bad thing.

Somewhere in between improvised street interviews expressing opinion and soliciting opinions on the topic, Maher or his director fails to make a good point about anything. It comes more across as a home movie than a professionally cut documentary. This cavalier film editing is from a director, Larry Charles, who has directed many TV shows among them Seinfeld.

Maher says something somewhere in the home movie to the effect that he is not an atheist in that most atheists’ strong assertions constitute in fact another religion. The many times I have read material on him, his place on the map in terms of beliefs moves around a lot.

Interspersed with the gorilla journalism are scenes of stock footage mostly from old Hollywood movies on religious subjects. It was here that I saw a similarity with the Cable show The Naked Archeologist with Simcha Jacobovici who is not an archeologist. The Naked Archeologist is an entertainment show with historic overtones and shown on The History Channel.

It was here that I realize that the whole generational genre thing these days is about entertainment and not classical news and or documentaries. Maher’s impromptu deliveries did not have the polished umph of a professional tightly edited movie, documentary or comedy routine. In fact, there were probably few retakes as in a scene in a Truck Stop chapel in Charlotte NC in the bible belt where I was not too certain that Maher was going to walk out alive of the chapel. His tone came across to me as a bit disrespectful of the beliefs of the men in that chapel and delivered to their faces.

I have watched his shows both on ABC and HBO and know he was not being disrespectful but there is that east coast America urban flippancy serving as confidence for some that does not translate south of the Mason Dixon line or west of the Mississippi. His humor is usually on an intellectual sarcastic bent.

Maher interviews a few snake oil salesmen, successful preachers, who ooze confidence in their confidence game and their spin on their successful business techniques which in my opinion is not legitimate religion. He of course does a few lines outside the Mormon Temple in Salt Lake City and is chased off the grounds by Mormon Security. He also stands in St. Peter’s Square in Rome to make a few lines of acerbic attitude. Also on the itinerary was a visit to a Dinosaur museum showing those creatures co-existing with man in the 6,000 years old age of the religious universe and a Holy Land Theme Park in Florida complete with hourly shows of scourgings and crucifixions. (entertainment?)

It, the movie, rates more as entertainment and geared to younger age brackets like most TV shows. In fact I think it could have been done on cable but even cable is likely to shy away from the topic of non-belief in religion which is where I think this film was originally headed considering it choppy sequences dancing all over geography and the topic of religion.

As I have asserted on many occasions, I feel that most atheists, or in Bill Maher’s case quasi-atheist, have had a bad religion experience in their past to justify their present attitudes and rhetoric toward belief.

In Bill Maher’s case, he was the son of a Jewish mother and an Irish Catholic father and raised in the RC church. That in one scene, interviewing his sister and late mother and sitting in his former church as background located in New Jersey, the subject of how the family stopped going to church when he was thirteen is not probed in depth. The story goes something like the father stopped going to church and the mother was not too certain as to why her husband did that. She did speculate that they used birth control and her husband no doubt had a run in with the local priest on the subject.

No big deal but perhaps the curiosity of the mind of a young person like Maher never got a full explanation why one Sunday he was going to church and the next Sunday there was a mandate to boycott the religion thing.

The market on disbelief, and people’s curiousity about it, are no doubt the reason for a modest profit on the movie. People are curious about non-belief. The latest polls put the population of America with no religious affiliation at around sixteen percent. That and the lack of diction or strong traditional rhetoric to defend one’s belief in non-belief is a factor that would seem to have many people buying movie tickets. I saw this film on Cable TV so I did not buy a ticket.

Unless you are a Bill Maher groupie or are deeply curious about one man’s obsession with the follies of religion in a poorly make film, I do not recommend this home movie.

1 comment:

Dave said...

Good review..never saw it and now I will avoid it as I do his show on HBO. He's a jerk most of the time I have seen him so this confirms my suspicions. Good documentaties are hard to find on the telly. Keep searching..