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Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

BILL Maher is undoubtedly one of the smartest and funniest satirists to emerge from America in some time… so who better to place modern religion under the spotlight than he?

No one… apparently. Religulous is every bit as probing and funny as you’d expect, even if it’s slightly one-sided and fails to consider almost as many issues as it covers. But then if Maher had attempted to tackle everything, we’d probably be faced with a movie that runs to damn near Biblical length.

Religulous follows Maher as he travels around the world examining the impact and state of various forms of religion in and upon modern society. In doing so, he interviews key followers, such as an actor who plays Jesus at an American theme park, TV evangelists and even Holocaust-denying rabbis!

Director Larry Charles, of Borat fame, intersperses these interviews and commentaries with clips from news reels and past movies to spice up Maher’s observations, or deliberately make fun at some of the ideology.

And while die-hard religious types will doubtless refer to it as the worst thing since The Da Vinci Code to hit cinemas, there’s no denying that – for the level headed viewer – much of what Maher has to say rings true.

Religion has and continues to be responsible for a lot of the world’s ills. Tremendous acts of atrocity and suffering have been committed in its name. And there is a lot of money tied up within the higher echelons of many religions, even though Jesus himself was the poor son of a carpenter.

Had Maher maintained a serious outlook, his film could have become as preachy and dangerous as some of the hypocrisy he uncovers. Instead, he treats viewers to a hugely engaging experience that’s also genuinely thought-provoking.

He does leave stuff out, of course, and it’s been mentioned by various critics that women’s role in religion is seriously under-valued, while certain religions are ignored altogether.

But in the main this is a hugely successful satire that achieves what it sets out to without creating too much of an unholy row – you’ll laugh, you’ll think and you’ll certainly have to confess to seeing and enjoying it afterwards as you furiously debate the merits of what it has to say!

Certificate: 15
Running time: 101mins
UK DVD Release: July 13, 2009