Comfortable and Furious

Joshua (2002)

I do not believe in God. There is little chance — strike that, no chance — that I ever will. Outside of the philosophical and intellectual positions that I use to support my absence of belief, I point to one shining example of why it simply cannot be possible for a deity of any kind to exist in the universe — that very God is cited as an inspiration for movies like Joshua. If people can be moved by the Holy Spirit to produce, write, direct, and appear in films that force me to devise new methods of criticism in order to handle the unprecedented levels of incompetence and sheer stupidity, an indifferent cosmos is the only answer. If this film and God both exist, I’m not sure the world will be ready for the amount of violence I will be forced to inflict on us all. Something has got to give.

Joshua is the story of a mysterious stranger who strolls into the town of Auburn, Alabama and proceeds to interfere in the lives of townsfolk, presumably to bring them together in a spirit of love and kindness. That alone should get the fucker shot, stabbed, and battered against the rocks of a nearby stream, but it turns out that he also performs miracles such as giving sight to a blind woman and bringing a stuttering retard back from the dead. Millions can die in the Congo, but I will save the lives of the two people who should never be allowed to survive infancy lest they spread their genetically inferior seed! Joshua lives in a barn, earns his keep by carving wood, and always seems to be wherever help is needed.

The characters he encounters — and helps — are as obvious as they are uninteresting: a woman in a troubled marriage, a local priest having doubts, a lonely widow who can’t get over her grief, and a suspicious priest who takes the case of this “deviant” all the way to the Pope. Did I mention that the gruff man of the cloth is played by F. Murray Abraham? Folks, we now have a winner in the “Actor Most Deserving of Having His Oscar Taken Back and Shoved Deeply Up His Ass Award.” More than that, I want that statue smashed against his unholy scrotum. It must be one cold and depressing evening when Abraham is forced to read dialogue from scripts like this while trying not to look at that Oscar on the top shelf. He’d have more dignity if he returned to those Fruit of the Looms commercials.

Joshua helps rebuild a church, teaches a woman to cook, carves a statue of St. Peter, and, in a trip to Rome (yes, the film ends with a trip to the Vatican), brings tears to the eyes of the Holy Father. It is no great surprise to learn that Joshua is in fact Jesus Christ, which is comforting because I could not tolerate a savior lacking a great haircut and rock-hard abs. And yet, I am troubled — one could say vexed — by the notion that while millions die horribly every day, children are raped savagely by their own fathers, babies are mutilated, starvation and AIDS threaten to destroy the continent of Africa, and George W. Bush avoids impeachment proceedings, Jesus is far too busy wandering around some backwater town teaching women how to cook fritters.

But maybe you’d like to believe that carving wooden hearts for abused housewives trumps the daily floods in Bangladesh (I know my own inconveniences such as running out of potato chips certainly do), but if the human race is to survive another century, such childish notions of the universe must be put to bed. With all of the power that Jesus Christ is presumed to possess — the very ability to move space and time, one would think — why do films insist on making him so goddamned boring? What the fuck is it you are saving us from? Excitement and a little mystery? No wonder Nietzsche though this guy ruined Western Civilization.

Joshua imagines the sort of world where everybody conforms to a single ideal, rules and regulations are strictly obeyed, and nothing containing a shred of wit, controversy, or intelligence is ever exchanged. In other words, a world run by Ann Coulter, once the liberal demons have been eviscerated on live television. A place where everyone walks around in a daze a pure joy because that “hole in the heart” (always used by religious propaganda to make us believe that without faith we cannot possible be complete) has been filled by the all-consuming power of Christ’s love. Until this bastard has ever been in a marriage, raised snotty kids more suited for the rack than loving arms, or even tasted the delights of anal sex, why should we look to him as a source of advice about human relationships?

So, I admit it: I rented Joshua solely because I thought it would afford me the best opportunity to sharpen my claws for Ruthless. My sense of sacrifice knows no bounds. And yes, I was offended by the message of this film, but for the most part, I was just bored out of my fucking mind, waiting for the longest 90 minutes in the history of the cinema to end. Okay, so I saw a once classy actor throw the last remnants of his career down the toilet. But I’ve been getting too much of that lately, what with Robert DeNiro appearing in holocausts such as Showtime and Analyze That.

And yes, I did hear the music of Michael W. Smith, reminding me that there are few sounds on earth as unpleasant as those accompanying odes to Jesus. But Joshua was no fun for me and I’m tired. After a worldview such as this, I need to know that the planet is an unchanging cesspool of violence once again, where greed, hopelessness, and shitty, rather than helpful, neighbors reign. Wait a second, let me look around……..there it is, I’m back.