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Reviewer's Grade: A-

For a lot of people, "Religulous" will have three strikes against it from the beginning. If you don't like Bill Maher's view of politics; if you don't like Bill Maher's view of organized religion; if you don't like Bill Maher, well, move along. There's nothing to see here. If, however, you want to laugh hard and out loud several times in a 90-minute period, and you don't care whose sacrificial ox gets gored in the process, this is the funniest movie I've seen all year.

With the death of George Carlin, Maher is the dean of cranky comic social commentators. Like Carlin, one of his chief bugaboos is religion, which he sees as nothing more than a childish adherence to magical thinking and superstition. The documentary takes Maher to Jerusalem, the Vatican, Amsterdam, London, Salt Lake City, Orlando, Fla. "? for The Holy Land Experience theme park and Kentucky "? for the Creationism Museum, which contains a diorama displaying human children playing around the feet of dinosaurs. You might think that Maher has chosen his subjects for the ease with which he could make them look silly, but that isn't the case. Many of them are quite bright and one even makes a point about the nature of the Trinity that earns Maher's respect. At least momentarily.

The film is directed by Larry Charles, but I don't suspect anything phony about these interviews. Sometimes you'll be outraged by Maher, sometimes by the person he's talking to. But you'll never be bored. Can I hear an "amen"? R

 "?Doug Bentin


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