Sunday night at the Paramount Theatre was the world premiere of What Would Jesus Buy, a documentary from Morgan Spurlock (“star” of Supersize Me) and directed by Rob VanAlkemade. It follows the cross-country road trip of The Church of Stop Shopping and their leader, The Reverend Billy. Now, Billy isn’t a reverend. And The Church isn’t really a church. It’s more like a theater group, performing in the vein of a gospel choir, crusading against overconsumption during the month of December, leading up to Christmas.
The group travels from city to city (and small towns as well) staging performances on street corners, inside shopping malls and even in local churches. Reverend Billy particularly dislikes Wal-Mart, Starbucks and Disneyland (he refers to Mickey Mouse as the Antichrist, and the film’s credits are typeset in a Walt-Disneyish font.) At different points in the film, through a voice-over, various data is given on the amount Americans consume during the holiday season. Some of the clips in the documentary show people stampeding through Best Buys to get a Playstation 3 or Nintendo Wii. There are people-on-the-street interviews, some who have gone into massive debt because of holiday purchases.
But the driving force of the film is the Reverend Billy. Of course he’s charismatic, funny (the kind of funny where he probably doesn’t realize he’s being funny). He’s very driven in his belief, although I would have liked to have seen something to explain why he hates the over-consumption at Christmas so much. It’s funny, because from what I can tell the Reverend doesn’t appear to be particularly religious. That was a bit of a conundrum that I couldn’t wrap my head around. Of course over-consumption is a bad thing. No one wants people getting hurt in a stampede, or going into massive debt. I just was never able to resolve in my head why the motley group was that motivated to embark on the journey.
Regardless, the film basically sticks to its strengths, because Billy is a great character and the film does a good job of equally showing his passions and his follies. People who see this movie may think about spending less when the red and green starts appearing in every store in America, but I get the suspicion that wasn’t the real point of the film in the first place.
posted by Bryan Keplesky