A Stand-Up's Letdown
Sarah Silverman is one of the most bitingly funny comediennes on the scene, but in her concert film/bizarre musical Jesus Is Magic, the normally consistent Ms. Silverman finds herself in an unfortunately hit-and-miss form. There are a number of factors at work in helping to craft a great comic. Timing. Wit. Improvisational skills. Comedians embrace these elements, among various others, in order to form the unique style that appeals to their fans.
Silverman's routine pretty much boils down to saying the most utterly shocking things in a very innocent-sounding manner. In Jesus Is Magic, Silverman serves as the audience's guide through her foul-mouthed assault on an array of topics. Ranging from religion and dating to racial humor and 9/11, Silverman puts on a performance, occasionally interrupted by offbeat musical numbers, that displays her tendency to be extremely outspoken on whatever she's discussing at the moment -- although this time, the schtick isn't as gut-bustingly funny as fans would usually expect from her.
Sarah Silverman: Jesus Is Magic doesn't come across so much as a cinematic stand-up comedy show as it does the result of what happened when Silverman got a couple buddies together to film her aimlessly doing a routine. Even the most free-spirited of performers have something of a form to their shows, an established arena to work around in, but here, Silverman rambles on about whatever pops into her head. She makes shocking statements for the sake of being shocking, and the things she says are funny about one-third of the time. The funniest bits involve the irony of Jewish people driving German-made cars and an attack on Martin Luther King Jr. ("I had a dream, too! I was being chased by a shark -- only it had braces!"), but for the most, Jesus Is Magic is a disorganized show strung together with a handful of hit-and-miss gags, with more of the latter than the former. The songs are even worse, a couple ringing with humor (the opening number is a good example of self-absorbed hilarity) but the bulk of them bringing the pacing of the film to a screeching halt whenever they randomly pop up.
Not too long before I sat down to watch Jesus Is Magic, I caught Steve Harvey's new concert film, Don't Trip...He Ain't Through with Me Yet! That film was a pleasant surprise (having rented it with low expectations), wherein most of the fun came from watching Harvey try to curb his bad language in the midst of doing a show at a religious conference. Perhaps Silverman could've benefitted from reigning it in like this for Jesus Is Magic. As it now stands, wit has been sacrificed for the sake of Silverman saying as much dirty material as she can in 70 minutes -- and without much heart or humor behind it.
MY RATING: ** (out of ****)
(Released by Interscope Records; not rated by MPAA.)