Religulous is directed by Larry Charles and stars Bill Maher investigating that which is called religion. Primarily dealing with Islamic, Judaic and Christian beliefs and sects, comedian and television host Maher prowls locals from Amsterdam to Utah to uncover the idiosyncrasies of the faithful.
Stopping at the most interesting places—a trip to the holy land of Jerusalem and the “Holy Land Experience” of Orlando, Florida—provides crucial settings for the film.
The movie progresses with interviews of television evangelists, ex-Mormons, Vatican officials, a neurologist, a man playing Jesus, a man claiming to be the second-coming of Jesus and many more. Maher takes each interview with a quick, critical eye and brings his logic to battle their most crucial beliefs.
Set to the same film style as Larry Charles’ last film Borat, Maher and his crew are seen inside of religious gathering places or in their car traveling and discussing the reactions of the bit before.
Charles creates a wonderfully humorous atmosphere, cutting in many clips from biblical movies. He places poignant words and closed captioning on-screen to pronounce the absurdity in some statements.
The movie’s true entertainment spawns from the humorous exchanges in each of Maher’s interviews.
Pastor Jeremiah Cummings, who had the first humorous spotlight of the movie, was criticized for his evangelical practice of using his sermons to preach the good gospel of the DVD recordings he has available for sale.
Yet the pastor, wearing a fine suit and gold jewelry, tries to ignore Maher when the lines of gospel about those who coat themselves in riches are mentioned. To prove a very clever point, Maher even interviews Senator Mark Pryor about his belief in creationism, coupled with his office of government.
The response is absolutely hilarious. These quips are quite frequent and, even when speaking to many different believers, Maher never loses his edge. In fact, when speaking to an operator of a faith based on marijuana, Maher takes his time to play mind games with the stoner.
Maher satirizes the religion Scientology in Hyde Park, London. He preaches a sermon of their beliefs to a crowd on Speaker’s Corner to mark the absurdity of Scientology.
Lastly, Jose Luis de Jesus Miranda, the leader of Growing in Grace International Ministry, made an appearance to describe his faith and further publicize the fact he is the descendent of Jesus Christ, the second coming of Jesus Christ and the Anti-Christ.
Unfortunately, the movie primarily deals with some very absurd religions and singles them out as a representative of religion as a whole. I find this in very poor taste.
Some of the film’s criticism also hits below the belt. There are many scenes where the crew is in the car traveling away from the last interview, taking shots at the last interviewee when he has no chance to defend himself.
Some editing processes were also used in the film to take away from the argument. The movie is nothing close to a practical discussion of religion, but it thankfully does promote the idea that even religious matter should be subject to scrutiny.
I would not recommend this movie to anyone sensitive to religious ridicule (the title is even a composition of the words “religion” and “ridiculous”). However, Maher places so much of his humor into this movie, it would truly be a sin to miss it.