Time Out rating:
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Time Out says
Tue Mar 31 2009The fug of ‘old Michael Moore’ hangs above this over-extended but nonetheless thought provoking and humorous documentary in which narcissistic New York comedian Bill Maher discharges his comic blunderbuss in the rough direction of modern, mainly Western, religion. As with Moore’s flawed ‘Roger & Me’, the key pleasure of ‘Religulous’ lies in the potential for dismantling or disagreeing with Maher’s arguments (which mostly bounce off the more mystical tenets of religion), his methods of inquiry (which settle for mockery and sarcasm over balanced insight) and his choice of subjects (crackpots, zealots and questionable one-offs such as a Hispanic TV pastor who believes he is the second coming). Yet, despite its faults, it’s still possible to enjoy this ramshackle ride.
Director Larry Charles, who made the not-dissimilar ‘Borat’ in 2006, capitalises on awkward pauses and fumbled retorts, scoring numerous cheap but genuine belly laughs from merely allowing Maher to prolong the verbal battery long after the point has been made and the contest won. Additional comic gloss arrives in the form of flash-edited inserts of bloated biblical epics which, again, will make you giggle, but which rupture the credibility of Maher’s critique even further.
As a highly subjective compendium of gripes about the face-value irrationality of religion, this offers a decent introduction to the nature of spiritual belief, the links between religion and commerce (for example an Israeli entrepreneur who produces madcap inventions that allow you to complete chores on the Sabbath without violating Jewish law) and, most importantly, the complexities of creating meaningful and reasoned dialogue between sceptics and believers.
Author: David Jenkins