What Would Jesus Buy?

What Would Jesus Buy?


Reviewed by: Andrew Robertson

What Would Jesus Buy? follows the crusade of Reverend Billy and his Stop Shopping Choir, a travelling happening in a pair of biofuel buses that's somewhere between a comedy show, an old-time revivalist meeting, and a desperate plea to resist the excesses of the modern age. Or, rather, one excess - the hypercapitalism, the lunatic heights of debt and hysteria, the attendant despair of that most profaned of holy seasons, Christmas, the American Way.

As the American economy falters under the weight of sub-prime lending, and as British consumer debt finally outstrips Gross Domestic Product, What Would Jesus Buy has a timely message, even if it is a little odd to see a movie that's largely about Christmas in late summer.

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Reverend Billy's tour takes him across the US, from New York to Los Angeles. Along the way he visits WalMart's headquarters, a variety of schools and congregation halls, and the Mall of America. He talks about the commercialisation of Christmas, of the absence of pavements on American streets, the lack of spaces that aren't private or commercial. He also preaches, though it must be said largely to the converted, and his choir sings. A sequence in which he and his carollers doorstep unsuspecting homeowners is hilarious, and among the film's many funny moments.

Billy's crusade is not without it problems. Beyond logistical difficulties, there are endless run-ins with security guards in shopping malls, and as the Stop Shopping tour travels across the US there's ample opportunity to compare the uniforms of a variety of Police and Sheriff's departments.

Segments with Billy, who is a charismatic and convincing speaker, are intercut with shorter sequences with a handful of families, exploring the ways in which Christmas, and its economic attendants, affect their celebrations. These are genuinely touching, and sometimes shocking.

There's a certain sense of schadenfreude, it must be said, but all too often as America goes, Britain follows, though often ten years later and in a way that's slightly off. Judging by the quality of mainstream film documentaries emerging from the US we can only hope that's true of British cinema too.

Reviewed on: 24 Aug 2007
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Revered Billy takes a look at America's shopping addiction.

Read more What Would Jesus Buy? reviews:

Chris ***

Director: Rob VanAlkemade

Starring: Bill Talen, Savitri Durkee, The Church of Stop Shopping Gospel Choir

Year: 2007

Runtime: 90 minutes

Country: US


EIFF 2007

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