GOD WE TRU$T
DVD region 2. Odeon.
of the more unexpected side effects of the success of Monty
Python’s Life of Brian was the idea that there
was money to be made from sacrilegious comedy, a strange belief
that resulted in two notorious box office bombs in 1980 –
the Dudley Moore vehicle Wholly Moses! and this
Marty Feldman movie, the follow-up to his underrated Last
Remake of Beau Geste. While Odeon’s sleeve
notes attempt an appeal to the Little Englander amongst the viewer,
suggesting that the film was ‘too subtle, sophisticated
and English’ for American audiences (a claim that ignore
the success of Python in the US and the fact that no-one went
to see this film over here either), the sad reality is that this
movie is not that great. Not entirely awful perhaps, but certainly
no lost classic.
Feldman (who co-wrote and directed) stars as Brother Ambrose,
a naïve monk sent to Los Angeles to ask TV evangelist Armageddon
T. Thunderbird (Andy Kaufman) for money to save his monastery
from closure. Along the way, he falls in with travelling preacher
and huckster Dr Sebastian Melmoth (Peter Boyle) and hooks up with
tart with a heart Mary (Louise Lasser). While his attempts to
see Thunderbird are initially unsuccessful, the money-hungry televangelist
soon realises that the innocent monk would be the ideal front
for the money-grabbing schemes of the Church of Divine profit.
But once Ambrose sees what is happening, he manages to secure
a meeting with G.O.D. (Richard Pryor) and show the computer Lord
the error of his ways.
There are some interesting ideas here, and this could be one of
the first films to skewer the money-obsessed, oily slick religious
con men that would increasingly rise to prominence (and sometimes
fall from grace) during the 1980s, all too accurately mocking
their insincerity and hunger for both money and political power.
While mocking religious leaders might seem safer than mocking
religious icons, this was still a bold move, and all credit to
Feldman for nailing them so well – Kaufman, in one of his
first roles, is as manic and demented as you would expect, resplendent
in silver fright wig and oozing unpleasantness.
Unfortunately, as a comedy, the film just doesn’t work.
It’s too predictable and plays too safe with its laughs
– there’s little of the knowing weirdness of Beau
Geste on display here, and for all the talk of sophisticated
humour, the only real chuckles come with some slapstick moments
and the final chase scene. The dialogue is weak and Feldman seems
to be going through the motions – hardly what you’d
expect in a film he was directing as well as starring in.
So, while not quite the artistic disaster that many have claimed,
In God We Tru$t is more of a light snack than
a comedy feast. Feldman fans will want to check it out, but the
less committed are advised to look elsewhere for entertainment.
Curiously, the only extra (other than a stills gallery) is a 1996
Australian TV interview with a very frail Richard Pryor, which
makes no mention of this film whatsoever.
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