If you like Bill Maher, you’ll be forgiving enough to like his new movie tirade “Religulous” – a little.
As unfair as it is amusing, “Religulous” is pretty much an equal-opportunity attack on major religions of world, and a few of the minor ones, by a comic zealot proclaiming his own devotion – to doubt.
I, too, am a doubter. But I admire people who have and live by their beliefs, so long as they don’t attempt to impose them on others – particularly through government.
Mutual respect works for me. But it doesn’t really work for Maher. He harshly takes on Catholics, Protestants, Jews, Mormons and Muslims – oh, and not to leave out Scientology (ridiculed without even a mention that it was invented by a hack science fiction writer).
But, I must add, there were plenty of laughs before the punchline, which is the Apocalypse – whether the work of God, or a bit of self-fulfilling prophecy on the part of true believers. There were plenty of images of mushroom clouds.
The theater was packed Wednesday night for the Baltimore preview (it opens Friday), including all three rows set aside for reviewers (and their dates). Maher attracts crowds with controversy. But my prediction is that “Religulous” will have a quick Exodus to Blockbuster, perhaps slowed a week or two if protesters bother to turn up outside theaters and thereby generate publicity.
One person seemed annoyed enough to leave the preview screening amid the lampooning of Judaism. I thought maybe he just had to pee, but didn’t notice him returning.
Muslims won’t be very happy, either. One hopes the most extreme among them don’t throw a fatwa fit over it.
Best performance goes to the actor playing Jesus at the Holy Land Experience theme park in Orlando, who held up well to Maher’s questioning – even offering a metaphor to the comedian’s disbelief of a Holy Trinity, likening it to the three forms of water as solid, liquid and vapor.
That is followed by the scene of tackily-dressed Florida tourists sitting on benches and enjoying the brutal and bloody crucifixion reenactment. (The attraction’s Web site is hoot unto itself at http://www.holylandexperience.com/. )
A shame the movie was made pre-Palin. She would have fit right in. But she’s getting plenty of attention on Maher’s weekly “Real Time” show on HBO.
The Great Debate is still on, and I cancelled plans for yet another movie when a TV-less friend suggested coming over Thursday night with his girlfriend and making a party of it.
And I hope you’ll be reading my take on Biden-Palin soon after.