Manchild Robert (Scot Michael Walker) is a struggling actor and drunk. When he’s not dressed as the Statue of Liberty outside a tax office with his best friend Gary (Robb Hudspeth), he’s letting down his ex-wife Kelly (Kristin McCullough) and his son Nathan (Adam Walker). Kelly has had enough of it, however, and tells Robert that she’s going to pursue sole custody of Nathan and move out of town.
Bummed about losing the opportunity to see his son, Robert decides he needs to figure something out to improve his life. After attending church on a lark with his girlfriend Valerie (Alisha Revel), and seeing the sweet ride Reverend Tom (David Lambert) drives, Robert decides he needs to start a ministry so he can make a ton of money from his congregation. Robert knows little about the Bible, however, and so he approaches Christianity with a more relaxed approach, preaching the word of “Don’t Be a Douche!”
Through trial-and-error, Robert’s religious message evolves more and more. Services include beer, an interesting, rambling opening from the burnout Gary, heavy metal music and Robert’s no bullshit sermon. Robert’s congregation grows, much to the chagrin of Reverend Tom, and the Rockin’ Reverend finds himself a rich celebrity. Which is, you know, generally when the true test of his character occurs.
Rockin’ Reverend tackles the hypocrisy of organized religion while at the same time showing the snares that can trip up the rebel when they’re no longer seen as the outsider. Robert’s plan starts simple enough, but soon everything he’s criticizing about religion is exactly what he has become. It works on a number of levels, but even if you’re not willing to give it too much thought, it’s funny in the meantime.
My biggest criticism of the film, however, is its length, and the distribution of the narrative in relation. The build-up of Robert’s religious persona is a bit too lengthy, and when he finds success, the way the success changes him is a little rushed in comparison. Nothing suffers as much as the end resolution, however. As the film entered its final ten minutes, I was surprised that the character development was where it was; it seemed like it needed to be further along than it was, and time was suddenly running out.
This may seem like I’m saying the film needs to be longer for the final resolution, but its more a case of the end needing more time with the lead-up requiring less. Overall, the film could probably drop about 15-20 minutes and still work. Tighten up the edit, advance the narrative faster. The sermons are great, I wouldn’t touch them, but the film still has a lot of space in the pacing that could be much tighter. As Judd Apatow has shown in recent years, two hour comedies can work, but I don’t feel that it’s the case here.
Sometimes the film suffers from the limitations of its resources too, with the composition being very plain and the audio being just good enough. It’s not overly polished, a little rough, but not entirely lo-fi and ragged either. You can tell the film did what it could with what it had, and this is simply the realm most indie films live in. It’s worth mentioning, but not notably horrible.
For the most part, Rockin’ Reverend works. Scot Michael Walker’s performance seems to channel Bill Hicks, and the overall premise is entertaining enough. At the end of the day, I agree with Robert that, overall, just don’t be a douche. If only more people accepted the importance of not being a douche, the world would be a better place.
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