What Would Jesus Buy?
Moore-ishness Minus Boorishness

Having documented his Super-sized trip to a near-death-experience-by-McDonald’s, Morgan Spurlock has produced another documentary—somewhat Michael Mooreish, sans the blatant exaggeration, the tricks of the camera, or non-contextualized quotes.

The biggest distraction for me was the sense that this was a movie-in-a-blender. Scenes are cut very awkwardly; we bounce back and forth, following the leader of the “Church of Stop Shopping,” leaving my brain somewhat addled.

Bill Talen as And it appears that director Rob VanAlkemade (Spurlock merely produced this time around) simply decided that fluidity isn’t necessary. The film jumps around between both consumers and merchants, questioning their shopping and selling habits. The thread loosely tying together these disorganized scenes is a journey following “Reverend Billy” of the Church of Stop Shopping. The Reverend and his fervent followers are crusaders against clothiers who use child labor and sweatshops to keep their own costs down. Lower manufacturing costs mean lower prices for American consumersand leads, ultimately, to a fat wad of cash in the back pockets of wealthy people who have bought into consumerism at its “best” (at least for them).

The Honesty Factor is driving me to confess that, aside from that fairly obvious commentary, it’s difficult for me to follow much else in the way of a narrative line of thinking in the film, so it’s hard to say much else about what this film is about. Every time I finally found a narrative thread to follow, we were back with Reverend Billy’s rather redundant, one-note crusade for us all to stop shopping at stores whose products were at least partially manufactured in other countries.

So, besides being a somewhat tedious and dry production, the big problem with this film is that it offers no answers to the problem. And even bigger still, VanAlkemade never answers the film’s titular question: What Would Jesus Buy? Would He only buy Made-in-Israel products? Who knows? And the movie never addresses the question head-on—it squirms around it, asking a “representative” minister to postulate what Jesus might buy (food and clothing as the bare essentials were his best guess, ignoring that in Scripture Jesus didn’t seem too concerned about even those things).

I’d like to be pleasantly surprised by this documentary, particularly since my spending habits lean toward frugality in its most basic form. Unfortunately what we get is over ninety minutes of the same “arguments” in numerous bits and pieces. Not that what the film encourages is somehow wrong—the statement of those values is merely clumsily and tediously drawn out.

Reverend Billy (according to the film’s promoter) is reluctant to discuss both his personal faith and that of his Church of Stop Shopping. The wild televangelist style just seems to fit his megaphone-toting, mob-gathering cause. But his reticence to talk about faith issues doesn’t particularly help the film.

Another oddity that deserves mention is that the film has been labeled as a “comedy.” No laughin’ from me here—or anyone else in the room.

What Would Jesus Buy? is not yet rated. I would offer it a PG-13 “lite”—mainly due to some of the thematic material with Reverend Billy and his followers. Besides, I doubt that anyone under age 45 would follow the material.

Courtesy of one of the film’s promoters, Jenn watched an advance promotional screener of What Would Jesus Buy? The film has yet to be scheduled for theatrical release. Also be sure to check out our interview with producer Morgan Spurlock.