Tuesday, March 24, 2009


"From the director of Borat," but much funnier, much cleverer...and ultimately a little bit more compassionate towards its targets.

Maher also takes sceptical outrage beyond Richard Dawkins's characteristic eye-rolling disdain, though he does stigmatise an adherence to bronze age beliefs as a form of neurological disorder.

My suspicion is that even those afflicted by a certain degree of certainty when it comes to metaphysics, will find it hard not to be amused, and perhaps even stimulated, by parts of this movie.

It is topped and tailed with a very serious message: that God used to be the only person who could bring the world to a sudden end, but we have failed to grow out of this silly notion before we ourselves acquired not one, but several ways of enacting Armageddon.

I'm not even going to begin to try to describe the bulk of the the chokingly funny moments, because Maher's talent is largely a matter of slick logical sleights combined with adroit timing.

Catholicism, on the whole, gets off rather lightly. Not so Senator Mark Pryor of Arkansas who Maher traps into admitting that there's no IQ test for high political office in the States. Later a maverick Vatican priest laughs at what Senator Pryor referred to as the "literacy" of the Bible stories, before informing Maher that when Italians were polled to discover who was the first person they would pray to in a crisis, Jesus came in sixth.

Maher himself walked out of an interview with Rabbi Yisroel Dovid Weiss, who had approvingly attended Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's Holocaust-denial conference.

His Muslim dialoguees generally denied any connection between the Koran and violent intolerance. The two that gave him the Islamic stinky eye were on paper perhaps the least likely to do so: the only patrons of a Muslim gay bar in Amsterdam, who visibly recoiled at Maher's jibe: "I hope you guys find each other attractive, because otherwise ..."

Another rather sinister interlocuter was Devil-denying José Luis de Jesús Miranda, the self-styled Antichrist who was banned from entering Guatemala in 2007. Having heard the religious leader's account of how Christ's blood line made it to Puerto Rico, Maher asked if he had more evidence for this than the fact that he was also called Jesús, because Miranda was also part of his name, which might indicate that he was descended from Carmen Miranda too...though instead of having fruit on his head he had it in his head. Fortunately for Maher this gag seemed to go over the head in question.

Grade: A-

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