Combustible Celluloid
 
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With: Sam Rockwell, Amy Ryan, Will Forte, Danny McBride, Jemaine Clement, Stephen Park, Leslie Bibb, Sky Elobar
Written by: Jared Hess, Jerusha Hess
Directed by: Jared Hess
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for crude and suggestive content, some language and brief violence
Running Time: 90
Date: 12/11/2015
IMDB

Don Verdean (2015)

2 Stars (out of 4)

Bible Chump

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

A good idea at the center fails to generate any interesting commentaries on the business of religion, nor does it conjure up anything spiritual. The few laughs it offers are disappointingly lowbrow.

Don Verdean (Sam Rockwell) is a Biblical archeologist, who once inspired people with his discoveries, like the shears Delilah used to cut Samson's hair. Lately, things have been slow for Don and his assistant (Amy Ryan), until preacher Tony Lazarus (Danny McBride) offers to save the day. Tony's church will put up money for more expeditions, which will in turn increase the numbers of Tony's flock. But when Don can't find Goliath's actual skull, he steals another skull and tries to pass it off as the real thing. Israeli digger Boaz (Jemaine Clement) figures out the ruse and begins blackmailing Don into turning his pursuits from spiritual to profitable. Unfortunately, this involves creating more fakes, starting with the Holy Grail itself.

Husband and wife filmmaking team Jared and Jerusha Hess (Napoleon Dynamite, Nacho Libre) are good with "quirky," and when they concentrate on good characters they can be warmly endearing. But most other characters are annoyingly thin, and are mainly objects of ridicule. Because Jemaine Clement (Flight of the Conchords) is so talented, he makes a couple of his sideways line readings funny, but on the whole, his Boaz is more of a stereotype. But the biggest missed opportunity is that Don Verdean is more focused on a plot about lying (the characters do pay the price for it), than it is on the concept of faith. It could have been either a strong satire or a spiritual journey, but instead it's just a bunch of dumb jokes.

Lionsgate's Blu-ray release comes with a director's commentary track, and two behind-the-scenes featurettes, as well as an optional digital copy.

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