Don Verdean | WORLD
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Don Verdean

Sam Rockwell (left) and Jemaine Clement Lionsgate

<em>Don Verdean</em>
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Jerud and Jerusha Hess made Napoleon Dynamite, a film that still pops up in Facebook memes, but just as Super Bowl–winning coaches only get so many losing seasons before getting fired, these married filmmakers are in trouble after making several films one could call forgettable if one could recall them. Don Verdean, their latest, is a comedy that is not funny, a satire too overblown to bite, and joyless where Napoleon Dynamite was fun.

Don Verdean (Sam Rockwell) is a “biblical archaeologist” who begins as an innocent with a trowel, but is corrupted by the desire to do good. He is tempted by two rival pastors willing to do or say anything to increase their shares of the religious market.

Both the megachurch pastors with dueling testimonies—one rescued from a satanic cult and the other raised from the dead—are good satire, overdrawn enough to be funny. The film might have served as a warning against pulpiteers who preach for profit, if the audience could stay awake. One person at my screening could not do so, because the film kept retreating from humor to mere crudity or shouting of unfunny lines.

The quality of the filmmaking has regressed since Napoleon Dynamite. The visuals are muddy and the sound uneven to inaudible. Toward the end of the film (rated PG-13 for crude and suggestive content, some language, and brief violence), Don Verdean must pretend to find the Holy Grail and the movie comes to life by borrowing energy from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade and running through some good movie jokes about the famous climax of that film like a click-bait ad site on the internet.

Napoleon Dynamite told a good story with interesting characters and came to the edge of transgressive without crossing the line. Don Verdean ruins a good concept with cartoonish characters and crosses the line into tedium.

John Mark Reynolds John Mark is a former WORLD contributor.


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