A year after the release of Monty Python's groundbreaking religious spoof Life Of Brian, we got Marty Feldman comedy In God We Tru$t, another satire this time focusing on the money-grubbing aspects of those pretending to speak on the Church's behalf.
The film's plot is very Blues Brothers in spirit as innocent monk Ambrose (Feldman) is sent out of the monastery for the very first time with the respectable mission of bringing back $5000 to save the place. At the same time, Brother Ambrose encounters his share of charlatans working in the name of God including a church truck-driving drunk (Peter Boyle) and a diabolical televangelist played by a show-stealing Andy Kaufman. Ambrose also meets his first love-interest, a friendly prostitute played by Louise Lasser. There's a lot going on in this movie and yet you never feel it knows where it's going. Unlike Life Of Brian which was so clever in its writing that taking away one scene from it would be, well, blasphemous, In God We Tru$t is packed with great ideas and potentially genius moments but it comes off as all over the place which might explain its poor performance at the box-office back in 1980.
The humour throughout is very much hit-and-miss but it's also a weird mix of different comedy genres that don't always gel together. Marty Feldman is excellent when it comes to physical comedy, as always, and his Buster Keaton-style stunts and slapstick are a joy but when put alongside more subtle jokes and biting religious satire, including a brilliantly vicious over-the-top performance by Kaufman, those gags tend to fall flat more often than not. If anything, the more successful jokes come when the film takes more of an early Woody Allen approach, poking fun at the absurdity of aspects of society in an equally absurd way. What the film lacks in laughs, however, it makes up for in gusto and creativity. Case in point: Richard Pryor pops up in an amusing cameo as God himself, an all-powerful computer.
In God We Tru$t certainly had tons of potential but it sadly lacks the sharp humour of some of the better Marty Feldman or Mel Brooks comedies. It is well worth seeing, however, if only for the likeable cast and a reliably unpredictable Andy Kaufman.
Uneven, if fun, romp.