When I woke up today I couldn't talk. This started last night, but when I went to bed I blithely assumed that all would be well in the morning. No. I ended up staying home from work today, because I didn't want to croak at the poor patrons of the UCSF Library.
I spent much of the day procuring or consuming lemon tea with honey, and chicken noodle soup. Otherwise I read or made myself useful (I hope) online. Then, at 5:00 I ventured out to one of the nearby multiplexes, to catch Bill Maher's film Religulous.
I'd been avoiding this film. The trailer made it seem like a predictable tale in which the educated sophisticate takes easy shots at the silly beliefs of the rubes. But enough buzz was in the air about Religulous that I decided I should actually see it before making up my mind.
To a large extent my impression was accurate. Maher has done an impressive amount of research about the inconsistencies in religious dogma, and pounces on believers who clearly are not as prepared as he is for the debate. He makes a lot of sharp jabs, but usually it's an uneven fight.
However, there was enough surprise to elevate Religulous above 2006's broadly similar film Borat. (Maler's director, Larry Charles, also directed Borat.) Intriguingly, Maher was something of a believer in God until he was 40; his deep skepticism about religion came relatively late. Also of note: he was raised by a Jewish mother and Catholic father. This fairly unique background primed an interest in religion for young Bill at an early age.
These autobiographical tidbits, as well as the one time Maher is impressed by a religious person's argument, enliven what otherwise becomes a formulaic film. (Step 1: Identify the rube. Step 2: Ask them a tough question designed to flummox and embarrass. Step 3: Now that the flummoxing is complete, allow for peals of laughter in movie halls throughout the land.) So Religulous isn't great, but it's worth seeing.