What Would Jesus Buy?

Posted: December 07, 2007

Directed by Rob VanAlkemade. With Bill Talen, Savitri D and James Solomon Benn. Released by Warrior Poets Productions. 1 hour, 30 mins. PG (adult themes, mild oaths). Playing at: Ritz at the Bourse.

That peroxided pompadour on Rev. Billy makes him a dead ringer for Cartoon Network character Johnny Bravo. The Reverend, stage name of performance artist Bill Talen, is pastor of the Church of Stop Shopping.

His holiday mission is twofold: Put Christ back into Christmas and take the consumerism out of it. The irreverent reverend employs faux evangelism to effect real change. His goal is to refocus America on the true meaning of the holiday season.

What Would Jesus Buy?, Rob VanAlkemade's diverting chronicle of Rev. Billy's barnstorming 2005 tour, spans Black Friday to White Christmas as the Reverend and his gospel choir travel from Westchester County, N.Y., to Disneyland in California, warning crazed consumers of the coming Shopocalypse. He interviews compulsive shoppers amassing huge credit-card debt, provides stats on how holiday shopping sabotages economic and spiritual health and looks askance at an electronics salesperson who opines that Jesus would buy a Wii.

Produced by Morgan Spurlock, director of Super Size Me that took on the high-caloric, low-food value fare at McDonald's, WWJB? encourages viewers to think outside the big box of super stores such as Wal-Mart.

VanAlkemade supplements Reverend Billy's antic sermons with interviews from economists, compulsive shoppers and Andrew Young, who defends Wal-Mart. The film, which provides context for Reverend Billy's political theater, may prove to be a more persuasive tool than the Reverend's performances, some of which bewilder shoppers looking for the season's must-have item.- Carrie Rickey

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