‘Oh My God?’: Movie adds very little to the subject matter

  • By Robert Horton Herald Movie Critic
  • Friday, November 27, 2009 12:01am
  • Life

Maybe there’s a way to make a really compelling, urgent documentary in which ordinary citizens and celebrities around the globe are canvassed about an important topic.

Offhand, I don’t know how. But Peter Rodger’s “Oh My God?” is not the way to do it.

On the other hand, perhaps you crave to know what actor Hugh Jackman, pop star Seal and some lady behind a gun-shop counter in Texas think about the existence of God.

Strangely enough, I do not crave this, so I’m the wrong audience for “Oh My God?” First-time filmmaker Rodger, an Australian, set about to find some answers to free-floating questions about why people who believe in supernatural ideas tend to group themselves into different tribes which, throughout history, have displayed a tendency to kill each other over their disagreements about their deities.

All right, a worthwhile question. But when the first talking head in the film is Hugh Jackman, you might begin to doubt Rodger’s priorities.

This is an indication that, no matter the interview subject — priest, imam, rabbi or Ringo Starr — the ultimate conclusion of an exercise like this will probably be the filmmaker’s voiceover announcing that none of us really knows the truth, and that we’re all brothers anyway.

Ringo gets a free pass because he’s Ringo, and is thus above criticism. But Rodger is going to have to answer for 90 minutes of very questionable material here.

It’s easy enough to include extreme examples of fundamentalist religious fervor (Muslim or Christian), but lining those up next to more moderate voices from the same faiths does nothing but remind us of the myriad ways scriptural texts can be interpreted.

It doesn’t get close to telling us what God is, which is Rodger’s lead question for his subjects. And even though experts in religion are consulted along the way, their answers are not much more substantive than Ringo’s, at least not the way Rodger has cut the movie, which is built for speed.

Rock star and philanthropist Bob Geldof brings a refreshingly skeptical view, refreshing not because of his agnosticism but because of his dubiousness toward the filmmaker’s purpose.

I’m not sure what convinced Rodger he should take his camera into a children’s cancer ward and interview sick kids, but he does. That’s where “Oh My God?” might make you say its title out loud, and where Rodger steps from inquiry to extremely bad judgment.

“Oh My God?”

Filmmaker Peter Rodger traveled the world to ask religious authorities, ordinary people, and celebrities what their idea of God is. Almost nothing illuminating comes out of this quest, unless you look to Hugh Jackman for spiritual guidance; Rodger shows extremists and moderates alike, and concludes with some very predictable pieties.

Rating: Not rated; probably PG-13 for subject matter

Showing: Varsity theater

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