Possibly the feeblest entry yet in the anti-corporate theater-of-muckraking genre, What Would Jesus Buy? chronicles a prefabricated cross-country crusade led by the New York-based comedic agitator Reverend Billy (Bill Talen), who decries Times Square’s “Stonehenge of logos” before boarding his Church of Stop Shopping bus for a pre-Yule blitz of malls and superstores across the PlayStation Nation. Talen, who evangelizes (with full choir) against consumerism in a bleached pompadour and collared white suit, seems like an intermittently inspired improviser and shit-stirrer, but the film atomizes his sweaty sermons and full-throated credit-card exorcisms into 10-second shards—his character can’t work up any momentum when we see the real nice-guy Talen most of the time, worrying over his injured acolytes after a highway accident or being directed by his earnest wife Savitri D. Director Rob VanAlkemade leaves no obvious music cue or Michael Moore/Morgan Spurlock trope unused, from rent-a-cops waving at offending cameras to shopaholic testimonials about credit debt. (Clumsiest transition to Bangladeshis wading in filth ever.) Most of the Rev’s confrontations fall flat if he manages to avoid arrest, as when he tumbles into a shrub in front of the Wal-Mart trademark sign while praying at the HQ. The climactic Christmas Day action on Main Street in Disneyland, Billy’s bête noire, comes off best; the special animus for the Mouse Empire points up what’s lacking in the act: the acid wit and logistical facility of The Yes Men, the ruthless skepticism of Borat, or even the ambition of Moore or Jesus producer Spurlock. “I feel nobody’s hearing us,” bleats Savitri after the troupe’s repeated anticlimactic efforts fail to put the smallest clamp on the maw of retail revenue. With lefty agitprop this tepid, the Bush and Clinton clans will be alternating presidencies well into the 22nd century.
- Warrior Poets Releasing
- 90 min
- Rob VanAlkemade
- Rob VanAlkemade
- Bill Talen, Savitri D, The Church of Stop Shopping Gospel Choir
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