produced by morgan spurlock, what would jesus buy? follows reverend billy (who looks like an 80s wwe superstar and acts like one on stage) and his church of stop shopping choir as they travel cross-country to spread their messages in malls and big corporations alike.
according to wikipedia, which i had to looked up trying to write this review after i saw the movie, the film “focuses on the issues of the commercialization of Christmas, materialism, the over-consumption in American culture, globalization, and the business practices of large corporations, as well as their economic and cultural effects on American society…” that’s why we like wikipedia. in this case, it helps to organize what this documentary fail to communicate. the majority of the 91 minute running time are dedicated to the reverend and his choir performing and sermonizing.
there are indications of what it might have been. early on, there is a five second sound bite with the choir director, who makes more sense than what’s shown on screen throughout the movie. there’s a ten second scene between the reverend and his wife that speaks more about what they are trying to accomplish than the other 90 minutes.
which is all too bad cause there is an interesting documentary to be made based on these issues. instead, the film raises such groundbreaking questions such as: did you know christmas is now too commercialized? people spending way too much money and sometimes into debt to buy things? did you know that people go crazy on black friday? credit card companies charge high interest rates and get people when they are young? big corporations use sweatshops in third world countries? chain stores are driving small local stores out of business? have you been living under a pottery barn chest set?
surviving the muddled 91 minutes are a few memorable scenes: the car accident that the group got into(even though it was strangely edited), the extremely unnecessary and acted out street confessionals, the high and mighty noble reverend checking his macbook, and a visit to a local clothing store when the group was stranded, during which the store owner states that the new k-mart drove all his customers away while the camera shows a $60 sweater. so i guess that’s your lesson, buy one $60 sweater instead of 6 $10 ones. you may be cold and broke, but at least you’re supporting local business and being socially conscious. oh, and feel good and superior about yourself. they also seem to be able to get another van rather quickly after the accident, while staying in a chain motel.
on the plus side, the reverend himself turns out not as annoying as i thought. the michael moore-esque tactics and theatrics might bother some people. much like moore and the catholic league, this group seems to target major corporations(the disney fonts, starbucks, wal-mart, k-mart, mall of america…) without much reasons other than press coverage. also like moore, reverend billy(who’s not really a reverend but a performance artist who shows up at burning man regularly) seems to get a kick out of getting kicked out, banned, and arrested. overall, the film itself is as lost as the 14-year-old girl they interviewed. i can’t quite give it a pass as a documentary, since it failed to bring anything new to people who already know what’s going on, and very unlikely that it would change minds and convert anyone who is unaware. it might also have helped that a real reverend is being followed instead of a performance artist playing one, especially since one of the messages of the movie is that christmas is too commercialized and taken over by corporations(the performance artist’s religious belief is never touched upon). a more honest documentary would have delve deep into each issues instead of skimming through multiple issues. but then again, no one needs to eat at mcdonalds for a month to know that it’s bad for you, but hey, it’s showbiz.
highlight of the movie: http://www.telegram.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20061128/NEWS/611280471/1101