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</script></div>{/googleAds}It's likely nothing more than a heavenly-inspired coincidence that comedian and media pundit Bill Maher decides to take on the BIG three makers - no, not that big three - in the midst of the 21st Century's first mass bailout: Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. (Eastern religions such as Hinduism, Buddhism, and Taoism get Maher's higher-powered waiver).

Maher, the de facto heir apparent to the cynical and pessimistic void left void by the passing of one of his generation's greatest comedic role models, George Carlin, takes on all bible testament spreaders, old and new, with his quasi-documentary Religulous, as much a vehicle for Maher to take his funny-man shtick globetrotting as it is a means to reveal religious truths, or untruths, depending on your faith in Hollywood and a supreme being.

On a self-proclaimed, self-appointed, and self-stylized one man messianic journey to save us from ourselves - an irony apparently misplaced by the court jester - by dispelling the perpetuated myth of God's existence, irrespective of religion affiliation, film opens with Maher standing atop a blustery and natural rocky stage inside an even rockier valley called Megiddo, Israel. This is ground-zero, Maher either educating us or pointing out what we already know, where Jesus Christ will come to end the world and save the people who believe in him, according to the King James Bible's Book of Revelations. And, with this, The Who's â"The Seeker" commences as the arrogant doubter begins his mission to symbolic religious meccas positioned all over the world, interviewing do-gooders that have devoted their energies to God as they know it, in one capacity or another.

ReligulousSpeaking to what comes across as his altruistic motivation for making Religulous, Maher monologues from the back seat of an indescript van, between locales, to his anonymous entourage and viewers that he cannot fathom how people, who're otherwise rational and reasonable in every other aspect of their lives, can accept the existence of something - God - for which there is no evidence or proof. This, he confesses, leaves him with dissonance about religion's selling of an invisible product: Cue the antagonized and defensive Christians, Jews, and Muslim from church right and temple left.

Maher, having the advantage of his narrowly focused docu-agenda, a professional writer's honed preparedness, editing, and the luxury of being on the offensive with an inflammatory offensive, proceeds to skewer the inarticulate men, and occasional women, he casts into a sometimes awkward and intimidating spotlight. Much of the transpiring interactions and encounters are humorous, and in a few instances, like a cannabis-based Christian Minister, laugh-out-loud funny. None are particularly theologically enlightening for what they offer or don't offer—â"The World's Funniest Home Videos: Religious Edition." Over half a century of TV confirm that â"man on the street" bits can be funny even when, or perhaps precisely because you do, know it's shooting fish in a barrel.

Unfit praying truckers, shady evangelists, pot-smoking Amsterdam ministers, Ex-Jews for Jesus, Evangelical Christians, an Orlando-based Holy Land theme park, the Creation Museum, the Mormon Temple in Utah, etc. are among the icons for â"Maher the doubter" as he smugly tries to get those caught in his wrath to defend something that cannot be proven in scientific, tangible terms—a faith-based belief system. Faith necessarily implies acceptance of the unknown thus, believers posit, the requirement for possessing faith.

Measuring the scale of divine dialogue, Religulous leaves much to be desired because the all-to-eager shepherd for 101 minutes, Maher, doesn't explore any rational explanations for why the â"otherwise rational" are susceptible to so-called theological irrationalness: Why are Christians eventually able to dispense with the Easter Bunny, but not Jesus Christ? Why have people throughout human history, from all socioeconomic walks of life located all over the planet, found solace in a belief system centered around a supreme being? It's an interesting question that Maher touches on, though doesn't explore to its fullest potential.

To his credit, Maher does ask, â"Why is faith good?" A question that none of his subjects seem to be able to answer with certitude. Inarticulate though they may be, it's reasonable to assume from a filmmaking point of view that the entertainment quotient is raised immeasurable by populating the proceedings with half-wits and deluded ego maniacs - a market by no means monopolized by religion - allowing post-production mending for maximum punch line effect. For the most part, Maher takes issue with people making a dime off God, Jesus or Allah. Religulous could've just as easily been an exposé on used car salesman, infomercial pitchmen, or self-help gurus. The crux appears to boil down to whether we're being offered something of value. It may be more to the point to ask ourselves: What's the value of peace of mind?

Maher asserts that his end game is to tap the untapped minority of non-believing Americans—reportedly 16% of the U.S. population. Addressing the camera Bob Hope-style—the movie's subversionary structure owes as much to Hollywood's â"road movie" concept as to Michael Moore's docu-comedy- Maher would have us believe the time has come for the non-believers among us to rise up. The rest of you, the professional comedian of over 25 years pointedly says you should â"Grow up or die." Comforting words from a man hawking the ultimate in an invisible, religiously-derivative product intended for mass consumption.


Component Grades
Movie
DVD
3 Stars
3 Stars
DVD Experience
3 Stars

DVD

DVD Details:

Screen Formats: 1.78:1

Subtitles: English; Spanish

Language and Sound: English: Dolby Digital 5.1; English: Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo

Other Features: Color; interactive menus; scene access; audio commentary; deleted scenes.

Supplements:

* Commentary
o Feature-length commentary track with Bill Maher and Director Larry Charles.
* Deleted Scenes/Monologues from Around the World

Number of Discs: 1 with Keepcase Packaging

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