Sarah Silverman: Jesus is Magic features very funny comedian stuck in a very bad movie. At her stand-up Silverman can be the master of her instrument. Yet, here she is stuck in a movie that is distracting and disorganized. It is part concert film, part variety show. The former works, but the latter is like throwing a rock through the rest of the movie. You’re left with the intense urge to hit the fast-forward button.
Silverman has, like all good stand-up comedians, a specialty. Yet her act is somewhat different than the usual comedians who stick to time-weathered material about the everyday battles with the universe like sex, politics, coffee shops and microwave ovens. Instead she talks about edgy subjects such like AIDS, race, pornography, even 9/11, and then punctuates her comments with shocking commentary. She pushes herself into unhealthy waters and her fearlessness is brought home by the fact that she doesn’t seem to be bulldozing the material by being crass or mean. There’s poise and intelligence to her delivery. She is pretty and well-mannered but her words take an unexpected U-Turn into commentary that is shocking. “I believe that the best time to have a baby is . . . when you’re a black teenager” she tells us. That’s offense, and it’s funny. So is her confession later that “I was raped by a doctor which is, you know, bittersweet for a Jewish girl.”
Part of the problem with her first movie Sarah Silverman: Jesus is Magic is that there’s not enough of that kind of material. Her act has a conversational flow to it, a pattern of beginning as something mundane but then ending it with something shockingly un-politically correct. Yet, the movie breaks this pattern every few minutes by bad skits and musical numbers of no consequence. There’s a long musical number at a nursing home in which she sings about over-medicated old people while she dances around a group of catatonic seniors. Fine, but there’s nothing funny here. It isn’t part of her act and it’s one joke that isn’t all that funny.
We didn’t come to see that, we came to see her stage act, I think the image she wants to project (at least on stage) is the image of a person who is insecure but unaware of the racist and sexist language that she uses. That’s fine, but it requires an artist who can orchestrate it like music. She’s done it before, but somehow it all falls flat here. There needed to be some measure of consistency. Throw out the lame sketches and the music and get down to the business of doing what she does best. Sadly, it’s not here.