Religulous: This film's problem is fundamental

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The Independent Culture

Another shortcoming is that the inclusion of non-Christian religions feels cosmetic, as if Maher decided to broaden the scope of the film halfway through. With the exception of Islam, the non-Christian targets are a little safe, with most of his attention being focused on Mormonism and Scientology. I would have liked to have seen him debate Buddhism with Richard Gere.

The main target of Religulous is the Christian Right, and by far Maher's most sensational interview is with Mark Pryor, a Republican Senator and evangelical Christian. After Maher points out how unconvincing the argument for Creationism is, and how shocking it is that a member of the Senate should believe in it, Pryor replies: "You don't have to pass an IQ test to be in the Senate." This is tantamount to an admission that the reason he believes in Creationism is because he is stupid.

While it's refreshing to see a liberal comedian engage in a rational debate with evangelical Christians, rather than simply sneering, it also makes Religulous feel a little dated. It was released in the US on 3 October, timed to have as much impact on the presidential election as possible. Back then, when there was still a chance that John McCain could win, an attack on the Christian Right was pertinent. But following Obama's victory, Religulous feels like overkill, an attack on an enemy that's already been defeated. What else has Maher got in the pipeline? An assault on pre-Copernican cosmology?

The best thing about the documentary is Larry Charles's direction. Charles has directed some of the finest episodes of Seinfeld and Curb Your Enthusiasm, not to mention Borat, and he keeps Religulous zipping along. I watched it with my wife on a Saturday night – and this is the closest a feature-length documentary is ever going to get to a date movie.

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