RELIGULOUS: On general release from Friday 3rd April 2009
Watching Religulous feels uncannily like the moment where you’re just told a hilarious joke that makes you fall about laughing with your mates, until the teller’s face drops and he breaks the beautiful comic spell with a remark about its serious connotations, causing all of your guffawing to peter out awkwardly into faux coughs and throat clearing as things suddenly get a bit serious.
A blend of two words, ‘religious’ and ‘ridiculous’ make up political comedian Bill Maher and Larry Charles’ new documentary film. It aims to point out the serious flaws in the logic of religion with one big accusatory finger.
Deftly highlighting the problems that arise from blind faith through a string of interviews with religious enthusiasts, many in powerful political positions, the film is cleverly spliced with images that juxtapose and ridicule the beliefs they base critical decisions on. This technique (including shots of violent terrorism) serves to jerkily remind us that there is a serious undercurrent to the film but works so well because it is interwoven with comic relief.
Maher is much like our very own Richard Dawkins, only funnier, less scientific and far more cuttingly political in his arguments, at one point asking a Christian who can’t seem to wait to get to heaven, “then why don’t you kill yourself?” Undoubtedly a baiter, he outright cackles in the faces of those whom he deems are being plain stupid in the name of religion. And there are reams of these. Catch the Senator who announces, as if telling a side-splitting gag, “you don’t need to pass an IQ test to be in the Senate.” This meets a rather scathing welcome.
Unfortunately, the end doesn’t quite work within what is more generally an irreverent look at religion. You’ve adjusted to the dark undertones exactly because of the overall humour- then, bam, on comes the apocalyptic images and theatrical judgement day-esque choir-song blasting away all things light and frothy. Mayer turns to the camera and tells us “Grow up, or die.”