|Seal is one of the celebrities interviewed in the film.
Oh My God
Religious trek is wholly exasperating
For reasons only he knows for sure, Peter Rodger took a movie camera on a tour of the world and its religions. He came back with “Oh My God,’’ a documentary that succinctly captures the experience of enduring this ponderous, repetitive, and exasperating attempt at moral, philosophical, and spiritual discourse. The problem isn’t with the questions. It’s the manner in which they’re asked. When the movie isn’t harassing Muslims and praising Buddhists, it’s condescending to almost everyone else.
Using the same childlike excitement that certain “Daily Show’’ correspondents facetiously prefer, Rodger starts his journey claiming to be interested in how different people feel about God. But his trip to middle America, where he asks leading questions of, among other people, a born-again gun-shop owner, is merely an early indication that his mind has already been made up.
He feigns revelation: “Perhaps God doesn’t exist after all. Perhaps God is a way to give validity to a bunch of lost souls who wish to belong to something. Do we have to belong to a club?’’ The cup of his puerile skepticism runneth over. “If we don’t challenge ourselves and we just take a place dictated by those who think they know what’s good or bad for us, aren’t we missing the true essence of who we really are?’’
Eventually Rodger, having dropped his guile, goes mildly on the attack, haranguing a priest in Rome about the Catholic Church’s opposition to contraception. He asks a Muslim gentleman to locate the passage in the Koran that explains that only followers of Islam go to heaven. As the man flips through the pages, Rodger plays what can only be called Michael Moore mockery music. The derisive shift in tone is hardly necessary since Rodger’s eyebrows arched a full hour before.
But his eyes go wide for celebrities. After some prefatory visual blather, the film gets underway with a few words from Hugh Jackman, whose views on spirituality and God (“It’s the space between words’’) leave the movie star cackling, presumably at the preposterousness of attempting to make us care about what Hugh Jackman has to say about religion. Seal, David Copperfield, Bob Geldof, and Baz Luhrmann also speak their piece.
This would be fine if the filmmaker permitted the non-celebri ties he finds in, say, Louisiana or India to say anything useful. But Rodger makes his own dubious observations the stars of this search. In Mexico, he compares Mayan sacrifice rituals to Muslim suicide bombers and, as bearded men talk about Allah while holding Kalashnikovs, the soundtrack’s terrible pseudo-spiritual disco is replaced with Wagner-esque horror music. Oh my God, indeed.