Rated R; Directed by Larry Charles; Starring Bill Maher
When movies like Angels and Demons open people seem to get upset at a plot that shows disrespect to the depicted religion. In this movie, it’s the Catholic Church that has the spotlight glaring in their direction. For most audiences there seems to be a philosophy on movies that involve religion:
- Huge epics telling stories from the Christian Old and New Testament = Good.
- Dramas and comedies that use religion as a plot point = Bad.
Monty Python and the Life of Brian, Saved, and Angels and Demons may get complaints, but if you are easily upset about religion in film, then stay away from Bill Maher’s documentary Religulous. This film purposely displays its disrespect of religion.
Maher travels the world interviewing people involved in various religions. Some segments are hilarious, some disturbing. His interactions with religious leaders, politicians, and some enthusiastic tourists give us a fascinating look at how people believe in the deity of their choice. Director Larry Charles manages to get people on film stating the strangest things, unless, of course, you believe as they do. The various segments are interesting, but Maher certainly has a bias. This isn’t some fair-minded look at faith, it’s an indictment of organized religion. For skeptics, the movie makes plenty of sense; for believers it may likely offend. Still, there’s plenty of humor and intelligence in the film for both types.
One segment has Maher at the Holy Land Experience in Florida, talking with the actor who plays Jesus. It’s a fun and silly look at how the one religion is viewed by many. The movie also looks at the Jewish, Muslim, Mormon, Scientology, and other religions – often highlighting contradictions in what people say and think. Considering the Catholic Church is upset about Angels and Demons, it is fascinating that the religious experts from the Catholic Church come across as the smartest in the various interviews.
Charles and Maher throw in plenty of clips from old movies, often to hilarious effect, using them to demonstrate biblical stories. And though taking a light touch, Maher makes some good points. Religion is a dangerous subject and makes people uncomfortable if handled differently than the expected biblical epics. If Angels and Demons can face protests then Religulous, out to prove the stupidity of religion, won’t make many friends, but it does make for a humorous documentary.