Friday, November 13, 2009
What Would Jesus Buy? (2007)
Directed by Rob VanAlkemade. In this documentary the Rev. Billy Talen and his Church of Stop Shopping go on a cross-country trip protesting excessive consumerism, especially Christmas shopping. They focus on Times Square, Wal-Mart, Mall of America and Disneyland.
But that's it. I've explained it, so you've kinda seen it. Since this was produced by Morgan Spurlock ("Super Size Me"), I kind of wished someone would only eat McDonald's food during the road trip, or something like that, just to make it interesting. Because otherwise, nothing interesting happened.
And I'll tell you why: the Rev. Billy Talen is a very genuine guy. Which means there's no gimmick here and a movie like this needs a gimmick. His reasoning is very simple. We all spend too much on bullshit we don't need, creating two problems, one practical and one spiritual. The practical problem is debt. The spiritual problem is that the meaning of Christmas is ruined. It's all very simple and footage of the Rev. being arrested and thrown out of malls gets old quick. Think Michael Moore but even less interesting.
What motivates this guy? How did he get so fired up about this stuff? Where did he come from? What are his philosophical goals -- meaning, how will he know when he has made a difference? None of these questions are answered.
"I so need what we do to have some impact on somebody," Talen's wife tells him at one point. And perhaps this desperation is more of what the film should be about instead.