The documentary “What Would Jesus Buy?” focuses on Reverend Billy and his Church of Stop Shopping. You may have seen him on the news. You may have seen him at the mall. You may have seen him in jail. If you haven’t, you need to see him. The “Adbusters” and Buy Nothing Day crowd are already familiar with him. Now, it’s time for the average consumer to buy into his message.
While this film focuses on a pilgrimage to Disneyland in the days leading up to Christmas, the message is that blind consumerism is destroying the country and its people. Psychological, economic, and environmental aspects are all delved into, and none of it is pretty. One would not expect this to be a balanced film, but the issues it raises are so alien to many Americans that it can’t possibly be balanced.
Hopefully the film’s title will trick people into watching it. If you don’t think it needs to be seen, think back to 9/11, when Bush finally addressed the American people his biggest piece of advice: keep shopping. If you can’t see the problem with that, this film should be mandatory viewing.
This documentary is not without faults, though. It’s biggest problem is the lack of insight into Reverend Billy. We get some time spent on his childhood and snippets of his mindset here and there, but we never feel as if we truly get to know him. What about the church, which is also described as a comedy group? It has a serious message that is delivered in an easily recognizable fashion, but we still want to know more.
Those faults are huge, but they don’t destroy the film. Instead, they put more focus on the anti-consumer message. If the filmmakers wanted that message to be the crux of the film, however, they should have spent equal time on other groups like the folks behind “Adbusters.” Instead, this documentary narrows its focus to one person, which isn’t bad but in this case doesn’t serve the broader issue.
Don’t let that stop you from watching this, however. It is essential for anyone concerned with what is happening in the country.