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IN GOD WE TRU$T
DVD region 2. Odeon.

In God We Tru$tOne 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.

DAVID FLINT

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