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A review of What Would Jesus Buy?

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What Would Jesus Buy? (PG)
Kimball's Twin Peak


Most people hate Christmas.

Seriously, that's true at least according to What Would Jesus Buy?, the new Morgan Spurlock-produced flick aimed at challenging our consumerist culture. The documentary reports that three-quarters of the American population views Christmas with more dread than anticipation.

Shocking, huh?

Maybe not. Christmas is a love/hate thing, and Billy Talens, the subject of this film, gets this. He knows the relationship that we, as Americans, have with the holiday. Religiously, we hold it in high esteem and talk about the value of giving over receiving. Culturally, it's the getting we cherish.

It wasn't always this way, the documentary tells us via interviews with a slew of consumer experts, pastors and authors. (You know, in case, in our shopping stupor, we forgot.) But we're here now, and it sucks, and we have to play with the hand we've been dealt.

Or do we?

Talens, in the Reverend Billy character he's embodied for the last eight years, aims to "save Christmas." He hopes to return the holiday to a time in which a gift given actually meant something and not just the fact that you were the first person on the block to have it.

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Alongside his wife and his crew of merry pranksters (in this case, the Church of Stop Shopping Gospel Choir), Billy travels the country, performing and preaching to the masses. It's quite the spectacle: As Billy breaks off into evangelical-like rants against the ills of the consumerist culture Wal-Mart, Disney, advertisements aimed at children, our willingness to succumb to all of these his choir, wearing bright red robes, hums behind him, breaking out in song from time to time.

It's a comical sight, but not as meaningful as the other stunts they perform together. Among those: protesting Starbucks, preaching in the Mall of America, and starting a flash mob on Main Street, USA in Disneyland. Without fail, security officers at these spots threaten to, and in some cases do, arrest Billy for being a menace.

The odds, clearly, are stacked against Billy and friends. After attempting, and failing, to exorcise the demons from the entrance sign at Wal-Mart's company headquarters in Arkansas, Billy and his wife Savriti lay defeated on top of a hotel room bed.

"I thought ... something might happen," Billy mutters.

"I just don't know if anyone hears us," Savriti responds. "They look at us like we're crazy."

This scene's memorable because, when it comes, much of the audience has probably started to tire of Billy's act. In What Would Jesus Buy?'s 90-plus minutes of runtime, there's very little progress. Sure, a few people voice their support of Billy's work, but we see no results. Worse, we hear the same preachings over and over. And in time, even the stunts start to dull.

It's a shame, too, because What Would Jesus Buy? has good intentions, even if it's nothing you haven't heard before.

Do you need to see it? Probably not. But if you weren't planning on buying your kid that Xbox he wants so badly for Christmas, bring him to see this movie. Then, when he doesn't get his wish on Christmas morning, maybe just maybe he'll look up at you with pride instead of disappointment.

Or maybe he'll just start to hate Christmas like the rest of us.
pete@csindy.com

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