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What Would Jesus Buy?

4.4 out of 5 stars 35 customer reviews

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(May 27, 2008)
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Through retail interventions, corporate exorcisms, and some good old-fashioned preaching, Reverend Billy reminds us that we have lost the true meaning of Christmas. What Would Jesus Buy? is a journey into the heart of America from exorcising the demons at the Wal-Mart headquarters to taking over the center stage at the Mall of America and then ultimately heading to the Promised Land ... Disneyland. Bonus Features: Deleted Scenes, Original Theatrical Trailer, Public Access Show featuring Reverend Billy and Morgan Spurlock


Religion aside for a moment, there's a terrible addiction that has swept across this country, and it's one of the nation's best kept secrets. Mostly everyone will tell you that it's a really bad thing, but nobody can seem to stop doing it. And it doesn't come cheap, nearly sixty percent of us are in long term debt because of it. No, we're not talking booze, drugs or overeating. It's shopping. And over 15 million Americans may in fact be addicted to it.

Rob VanAlkemade's 'What Would Jesus Buy?' is a rousing, irreverent and simultaneously sobering documentary about the year round destructive shopaholic obsession that spins into an out of control buying and spending orgy by the time Christmas rolls around. The movie follows performance activist Reverend Billy and his ragtag cross country caravan, The Church of Stop Shopping Gospel Choir, to bring the voice of reason a few holiday seasons ago, to compulsive consumers everywhere.

The intent of this countdown to Christmas is to save the holiday from what Reverend Billy has dubbed only slightly in jest, the Shopocalypse. Ironically, many of his group are injured when one of their buses collides on a highway with a truck rushing to deliver Christmas merchandise to stores. Meanwhile, the Reverend muses, 'everyone in a car is driving to a television.

The What Would Jesus Buy? project is the brainchild of Morgan Spurlock, the same guy who in a less spiritual frame of mind, lost the junk food battle of the bulge against McDonald's with his Academy Award nominated high calorie investigative doc, Super Size Me, and is now hitting the plexes with Where In The World Is Osama Bin Laden. The concerns of What Would Jesus Buy are broader than digestion issues, as Reverend Billy and entourage put out a wakeup call to mall junkies everywhere, exorcising the demons from assorted cash registers and credit cards as he urges consumers to return to a more authentic relationship with Christmas.

Reverend Billy's approach to advocating healing social change, along with the thousands of followers in his congregation, is to infuse protest with humor, energizing his message with feelgood social activism. The businesses he holds up to a higher standard may not feel quite the same way, as the manic preacher formerly known as Bill Talen has been booted from countless stores and malls, and is the only bible thumper to have a permanent restraining order against him issued by Starbucks. With his clerical collar, white tuxedo, bleached blonde pompadour and portable pulpit and ambulatory confession booth in tow, Reverend Billy has ranted to whomever will give a listen, urging folks to get in touch with a more human, less materialistic way of life and consider the promise that a 'change-allelujah' shout-out can bring.

At once buoyant and a little sad, What Would Jesus Buy includes candid conversations with the shopping disorder afflicted who, seriously bitten by the overconsumption bug, just can't seem to help themselves. One teen confesses that if she doesn't constantly buy the latest clothing fashions, she's terrified of being ostracized and ridiculed by everyone at school. And a woman shows off her closet at home filled to the brim with colorful outfits - all for her pet chihuahua. On the other hand, life isn't necessarily a breeze living with a guy who's driven to get his message out there 24/7. Reverend Billy's wife, the straight man to her prankish spouse of the cloth, confesses, 'we fell in love before I knew what he was up to.'

Not all viewers may find Reverend Billy's intervention quite so divine in What Would Jesus Buy. But whatever his particular madness, there's an unmistakable method at work, inspiring real reflection when it comes to exactly what this consumerized holiday season is all about.

More information about What Would Jesus Buy? and Reverend Billy, i

Performance artist Bill Talen creates a new guise: Reverend Bill. Reverend Bill is bleach blonde and is the leader of the Church of Stop Shopping. The name of his church says everything about the message Reverend Billy is taking to the masses. Much like Ad Busters Buy Nothing Day, the message is simple: mass consumerism is the ruination of mankind and people worship the all mighty dollar bill more than anything else. Rather than to believe in a higher power or pursue more noble goals, today s population worships at the idol of Wal Mart, Starbucks and Walt Disney.

The documentary follows Reverend Billy and company as they begin their 2005 cross country bus tour. The Reverend puts on a no-holds barred theater show in places like the Mall of America. He warns people about the Shopocalypse that the everyday America willingly takes part in every day that they blindly consume and buy.

Of course, it isn t long at any of these performances before cops and security guards are dispatched to shut old Reverend Billy down. Reverend Billy s message is delivered with a spoon full of sugar with catchy songs, clever catch phrases and hysterical lyrics that drive home the point that being debt ridden and brand obsessed is no way to live your life.

He makes some good points. Not only are Americans brand obsessed and debt ridden, but consumerism is ruining our surroundings as well. He makes the point that Times Square is no longer charming or unique but merely a Stonehenge of Logos . Think about it, Reverend Billy is right.

The director, Rob VanAlkemade, captures the energy of Reverend Billy and his traveling group as they blow into town after town, create a spectacle, spread the gospel of non-consumerism, and get shut down and dash to the next town.

The stripped down style of the documentary suits the subject matter perfectly. Not only does he capture the wild and wooly nature of what Bill Talen and his group do, but he shows life on the other side of the show . The struggle of making it from town to town in bio-diesel buses with heaters that only work occasionally is less than glamorous. He also shows Bill at home with his wife Savitri Durkee and how they come up with their ideas and they reveal how they pay for everything and get buy trying to get the word of Reverend Billy out to the masses.

Any documentary fan is going to dig this film. However, if you are one of those Americans that can t get enough of Prada, Louis Vuitton, or Tommy Hilfiger and will sacrifice anything or anyone to own anything with those logos, never mind the exploitation of workers paid mere pennies to manufacture these items, this film is going to make you squirm uncomfortably in your seat in shame. You are probably going to try to avoid this film. Maybe a close friend or family member will do you a favor and give this to you for Christmas next year instead of those Chanel sunglasses you don t need.

Headline: Super-Size Jesus

This tongue-in-cheek documentary questions the degree to which America has commercialized Christmas. The film features Reverend Billy Talen, a colorful character who travels across the country accompanied by the Church of Stop Shopping Gospel Choir, confronting frantic shoppers in malls right at the height of the holiday season.

Declaring Mickey Mouse the anti-Christ, this flamboyant man of the cloth mounts a soap box to inform anybody who ll listen that The Disney Company still presides over sweatshops all around the world. He conducts impromptu man on the street interviews, asking folks to have a conscience about their purchases.

Unfortunately, his passionate pleas fall mostly on deaf ears and do little to discourage the determined consumers he encounters, despite his dire warning of the coming Shopocalypse. Instead, he s mostly treated as a nuisance by mall security and local police who routinely either arrest him or escort him off the premises.

Nonetheless, the movie does drive home a powerful point, namely, that Christmas has lost most of its religious significance and come to revolve around gift-giving. Pointing out that most Christians spend more time worshipping retail items in malls than Jesus in church, he challenges believers to find something more meaningful to do than shopping.
He s supported in this endeavor by several experts, including Harvard Professor Dr. Alvin Poussaint who laments how since birth we ve been conditioned to associate material goods with the symbol of love. Ditto Reverend Andrew Young who makes a cameo appearance in which he reminds us of Christ s teaching to Feed the hungry, clothe the naked and heal the sick.

But the real star of this show is the irrepressible Reverend Billy who is as hilarious as he is thought-provoking, and thus apt to keep you in stitches as you contemplate spiritual alternatives to material satisfaction. Merry Capitalism!

Excellent (4 stars)
PG for mature themes and mild epithets.
Running time: 91 minutes
Studio: Arts Alliance America
DVD Extras: Deleted scenes, printable lyrics to the choir s unique Christmas carols, and an 8-minute public access show featuring Reverend Billy and the choir. --The Sly Fox

Special Features


Product Details

  • Actors: Reverend Billy
  • Directors: Rob VanAlkemade
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Closed-captioned, Color, NTSC, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    Parental Guidance Suggested
  • Studio: Arts Alliance America
  • DVD Release Date: May 27, 2008
  • Run Time: 91 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0013K2ZDQ
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #85,105 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Joshua D. Scott on February 27, 2008
Format: DVD
I was able to see this film already and it is a hilarious yet serious take on overconsumption in America. Reverend Billy and his choir stop at shopping malls across the country from New York to California to sing songs and confront consumerism with a feel reminiscent to the Borat movie. It's a quasi-documentary and should be viewed by everyone in this country. There are only a few interviews with experts on consumerism but this movie is a good starting point for further research on consumerism. It is light enough to be enjoyed by children yet enlightening for adults as well. Hopefull the DVD will feature heavier bonus content that adds to the issue at hand. Scenes at the Mall of America, Disneyland, and carolling about consumption to wealthy families are not to be missed!! See it.
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Last Fall, when this movie was in the theaters, I asked my 18-year-old daughter to join me, as a special favor. She went to please her mother, not because she really thought it would be good. After all, it had "Jesus" in the title, and my Sunday-school-raised child had long since decided that church and Jesus wasn't really for her. Well, she (and I) laughed heartily at this movie, many times, as it also seriously convicted us, challenged us to evaluate our spending. My daughter is now looking forward to sharing this film with friends. She wants to have friends over to the house to view it. It's been 6 months since we watched it, and thoughts of seeing it again brings forth laughter and reminders to be aware of our spending habits, our wants and our perceived "needs." This film touches on all ages -- children, teens and adults, challenging everyone to take a serious look at their motivations. Hooray for those that have the courage to point out how extreme our consumerism has gone.
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Rev. Billy and his traveling gospel choir from the Church of Stop Shopping bring up a lot of questions which they cannot necessarily answer, but the point is to allow us to ponder those questions and decide how we might change our ways.

With his loud, outrageous and daring antics, Billy invades Disney store, Starbucks, Disneyland and various American cities and malls as he crusades for an end to the shopping frenzies and consumerism that have taken over the lives of too many Americans--especially during the Christmas season. It's not possible to know how many people he has influenced or if they are really thinking about what he's saying, but perhaps he will simply need to do this every year until more people start listening.

The questions are: why do we think we must shop till we drop for Christmas? Why do we go into debt this way? What makes us think our kids will love us only if we bombard them with toys and the latest electronics? Who really believes that if we don't shop and spend, the terrorists will win? Why do we buy products that we know were made in third world sweatshops by kids? Why are we so obsessed with brand names and designer labels?

And what would Jesus buy? I don't think he would buy anything. He would give of himself, sacrifice, spend time with others, and not be concerned at all with any selfish desires.

This is worth a viewing and some pondering.
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I bought this film in 2010, and now it is a tradition in our family to watch it on black Friday, which is the day after Thanksgiving, a day which we celebrate as "buy nothing day." Reverend Billy and the Church of Stop Shopping Gospel choir set off in biodiesel buses on a cross-country trip to stop the Shopocalypse by warning as many people as they can. Their final stop is Disneyland, and an amazing series of events there. (By the way, this gospel choir is terrific!!!!!)

Many of the other reviews here provide a good synopsis of this documentary, so I'll add only that even though Reverend Billy is a performance artist, not an ordained minister, his "preaching" rings truer to me than sermons in my church ever have. Reverend Billy actually "walks the walk," as well as "talking the talk," something that is very rare in our world today. And somehow, though we're absorbing lots of sobering information about how our addiction to material stuff is destroying lives all around the world, including our own lives, Reverend Billy keeps us engaged, surprised, and very entertained.

You can watch "What Would Jesus Buy?" for free, here: [...] I think after you see it, you'll want to buy the DVD, too.
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When I bought this film I was looking forward to a comedy. As I watched it I kept waiting to laugh, but felt more depressed with every scene. Yes, Rev. Billy is funny and the theatrics are entertaining, but the vignettes of Third World sweat shops similar to those used by Walmart and Disney Corporation made it hard to enjoy. It makes you stop and think.

For years we have been shown starving children on late night TV and have been asked to contribute pennies a day to feed them. Unfortunately we never addressed their governments failure to take care of their own. I guess they didn't have weapons of mass destruction...other than why bother?? Our American corporations, on the other hand, appear to have taken careful notes on these countries. They saw $$$ on swollen bellies and drawn faces, an untapped labor market in a country that had few expectations of them. These once hungry children aren't much better off today. Yes they eat, but they still have no health care and work 16 hours days for pennies. Their work was once our work. They have taken manufacturing jobs that once fed American families. Those same families, many now struggling, go to Walmart and other discount houses to purchase the things they once made. If there is any poetic justice in this it is that we are now forced to realize the true value of being "our brother's keeper."
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