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IN GOD WE TRU$T

     

For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, Feb. 10, 2017

EDITOR’S NOTE: In the late 1970s and early ’80s there was a spate of movies lampooning religion, from “Monty Python’s The Life of Brian” to “Wholly Moses!” to this one, which recently made its DVD debut on the Universal Vault label, an arm of Universal Home Entertainment that caters to overlooked vintage titles. Here is my Sept. 26, 1980, Deseret News review.

Marty Feldman is kind of a low-rent Mel Brooks.

Brooks’ humor, which certainly doesn’t appeal to everyone, is extremely wacky and off-the-wall, but we laugh because so often he lampoons familiar things the way we’ve always wanted to see them lampooned. The excesses and the jokes that don’t work are always there, but before we can digest them, another marvelous moment is in front of us.

Feldman, who was very funny in two Brooks outings (“Young Frankenstein,” “Silent Movie”), has learned from his mentor the art of lickety-split jokes, but when he comes up with a few good gags, he doesn’t seem to know what to do with them.

So, instead of an inspired Brooksian capper, Feldman finishes with a profanity or an obscene gesture or a token slapstick pratfall.

The result is often a cringe instead of a laugh.

     

         Marty Feldman, Peter Boyle, 'In God We Tru$t'

Feldman’s first writing, directing effort, “The Last Remake of Beau Geste,” had all those problems, and now “In God We Tru$t, or: Gimme That Prime Time Religion” has them, too. But it has the added feature of being offensive to anyone who takes religion seriously.

The overall idea of the film, that TV preachers line their pockets instead of really preaching the Gospel, appeals to me. And that style of evangelism was successfully spoofed by Paul Sorvino in the original “Oh, God!”

In “In God We Tru$t,” however, it merely serves as a pivotal idea by which all aspects of religion can be ridiculed.

Feldman stars as an innocent Trappist, a monk who has never been outside the monastery. He is directed by his abbot (Wilfrid Hyde-White) to go to Los Angeles and seek out TV evangelist Armageddon T. Thunderbird (Andy Kaufman) to obtain a donation of $5,000 for the monastery mortgage.

Along the way he meets up with a con-man traveling preacher (Peter Boyle) whose church is inside a converted school bus; a prostitute (Louise Lasser) who introduces him to sex, becomes pregnant and eventually marries him; and toward the film’s end, an immortal God (Richard Pryor), who is really a computer that Feldman reprograms for biblical morality.

     

There are some humorous moments. The opening scene has a rooster atop the monastery clearing its throat before crowing, Feldman rolls his popping eyes as he looks in a mirror and remarks how strange it is that God made him in His image, he wears a sundial pocket watch, Thunderbird’s organization is “The Church of Divine Profit,” etc.

But for every one of those, there are 50 unsettling tasteless ones — the “Hallelujah Chorus” swelling as Feldman has his first sexual encounter, a ventriloquist’s dummy that is supposed to be Moses, a “Rising Lazarus” doll that pops out of a coffin, and much, much worse. The tone for this movie’s sacrilegious attitude is also set by Harry Nilsson’s title song (which we must endure three times during this film), a really poor taste ditty called “Good for God.”

Earlier this year we had “Wholly Moses,” now we have “In God We Tru$t.” If this one fails at the box-office the way the first did — and we can only hope it will — maybe Hollywood will get the idea that no one’s interested in this kind of garbage.

And if we’re really lucky, Feldman will go back to co-starring roles in films made by people who know how to execute instead of exterminate a joke.

“In God We Tru$t” is rated PG for profanity, sex and nudity.