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Friday, December 9, 2011



"Hallelujah, brother!"
-- Reverend Billy

What Would Jesus Buy? is a 2007 documentary directed by Rob VanAlkemade that follows Reverend Billy (Bill Talen) and the Church of Stop Shopping as they travel across the country spreading their message about the dangers of over-shopping around the holidays. Reverend Billy has been spreading his message for years but always noticed that shoppers went a little crazy around the holidays. And so, in an attempt to preach to the masses, he and his gospel-type choir trekked around the country, making their way towards Los Angeles in order to spread a message of anti-materialism. Ultimately, their plan was to re-instill the real meaning of Christmas, and despite the fact that their over-the-top antics put the group in constant legal trouble, they continued to preach their way around the country.

To be fair, I never would have heard of this film had it not been for NetFlix's Instant Watch lists, and ultimately, I'm slightly glad I was able to give it a chance. The basic premise of the film - having a group of people telling the public they shouldn't give all their money to massive companies around the holidays - is actually a relevant one, and it's definitely something that everyone should hear, especially around this time of the year. However, I'm not entirely sold on the necessity of an entire film dedicated to this message. It could easily have taken them half an hour to give us all the ins and outs of their stance, but this movie just seemed to drag on and on for quite a while. (Considering this is a Morgan Spurlock-produced flick, I'm not really surprised, seeing as his biggest claim to fame - 2004's Super Size Me - had the same effect on me.)

Part of the reason I couldn't get into the film was Reverend Billy himself. While he seemed like a perfectly believable individual in the film's early going, his over-the-top persona started to wear on me about halfway through the film. It was just too much to follow, and to put it plainly, Reverend Billy got terribly annoying after a while. I probably couldn't tell you exactly what it was about him that turned me off from the flick, but he was just too much of a caricature to be enjoyed. Over-the-top is never going to hook me, so I apologize to the good Reverend because I do like what he's trying to say. He's just going about it in a little bit of the wrong way.

My biggest issue with the film, however, is that they don't make real reference to the wholesomeness of their message until the waning moments of the film. Everything is about "stopping shopping," but there's no mention about the fact that they want to take us back to the values of love, family and peace that Christmas used to accentuate the holiday. They finally say it in the film's last scene, but had they mixed that message into their rants and raves throughout the flick, I think it might have brought a more balanced picture to the forefront. Instead, we get a slew of words that all equate to this message: "Stop shopping." I'm glad Reverend Billy understands the effectiveness of a thesaurus.

Ultimately, What Would Jesus Buy? is not a good film, but it still presents a very good and important message that should be taken to heart. Christmas is not about the presents and the materialism so prevalent in today's society. You don't need to "keep up with the Joneses" this holiday season; rather, spend the time with your family and friends and show them just how much you love them and how much they mean to you. If your version of love is giving your kids an XBOX or something of the like, then you might have to think about your priorities. Get back to the basics and celebrate love, life, family and peace this holiday season.

Movie Review Summary
Grade: C-
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