- Director:Larry Charles
- Cast:Steve Burg, Bill Maher, Yisroel Dovid Weiss
- Release Date:December 10, 2009
- Running time:101 minutes
- Film Worth:$13.50
- FILMINK rates movies out of $20 - the score indicates the amount we believe a ticket to the movie to be worth
Borat/Bruno meets Michael Moore in this funny and thought provoking attack on religion.
US comedian and talk show host Bill Maher (he's the one on the left) does not believe in god. In his opinion, how could anyone? With Religulous - a pretty self-explanatory title - he sets out to prove his beliefs by trekking across the globe, speaking with everyone from a theme park Jesus, Christian evangelists, Hasidic Jews, Jews For Jesus, ex-Mormons to Muslim rappers and fundamentalists.
Directed by ZZ Top lookalike Larry Charles (Bruno, Borat, Seinfeld, Curb Your Enthusiasm), whose zen-like presence is often seen in shot (this, along with visible boom mics and second cameramen form part of the film's raggedy style), this entertaining doc follows Maher as he confesses to his own lineage (half Catholic, half Jewish but brought up a Catholic until he hit his teens when his father pulled him out of religion due to its law against contraception), and then on to various places across the world to prove his treatise, which includes environmental damage and war being the direct result of religion's hypocrisy, by-product and in some cases goal.
The main reason that the film works is because of the charming Maher. Unlike someone like Michael Moore, or dare we say Bruno, Maher manages to endear himself to the easy targets he interviews and although they may not agree with what he's saying, they never storm off in disgust. He may be asking highly uncomfortable questions but the Patrick Swayze-alike manages to do so in a way that's funny, intelligent and highly researched, and quite often sees the interview end in embrace; and rarely in agreement.
The editing (use of juxtaposing archival footage and subtitles) is hilarious, though many will find this intrusive for a documentary - but like Michael Moore, this film has an agenda and it goes for it full throttle. There are also similarities to our own John Safran, whose series John Safran Vs. God explored similar territory, only Maher is a more seasoned performer than the often mumbling Safran.
Although it touches on all the big guns - Judaism, Islam, Christianity - it's the latter that Maher is most successful in skewering, but admittedly it's a huge target, particularly in his home country, where politics and religion intermingle unhealthily on the biggest stages.
Maher wants to rally agnostics everywhere in order to change the world, and he goes to great lengths - smoking marijuana on camera, telling an ex-homosexual preacher that he got wood when they embraced and accusing a rabbi of supporting a Holocaust denier, amongst many other surprising highlights - and for that Religulous has to be admired, or hated, depending on which side of the religious fence you sit on.