The Catechism Cateclysm

| February 27, 2012

Catechism (n): An elementary book containing a summary of the principles of the Christian religion, especially as maintained by a particular church, in the form of questions and answers.
Cataclysm (n): Any violent upheaval, especially one of a social or political nature.
Somewhere in a Midwest Catholic church, Father Billy (Steve Little; HBO’s Eastbound & Down) preaches the lessons of Jesus Christ through unconventional stories. These include an old woman who comes out of the grocery store to find 3 Hispanic men stealing her car. The woman chases the carjackers off with a giant gun only to discover that the car actually isn’t hers and she has just accidentally carjacked someone else at gunpoint. Certainly, a parable about the teachings of Jesus Christ are to be found somewhere in this story, right? Perhaps something about not judging others too quickly, or a less specific message about wrath and justice being God’s job and not for us mortals to undertake ourselves. Unfortunately, Father Billy just likes to tell a good story. He finds it funny, and his inability to draw any sort of parallel between his stories and the overall purpose of his church leads his supervising Bishop to send him on sabbatical in order to reconnect with his faith.
Father Billy decides that in order to reconnect with his faith, he wants to take a weekend canoeing trip with his high school idol, Robbie (Robert Longstreet). Despite not really remembering Billy from school (he dated Billy’s sister), Robbie agrees to go on the trip in exchange for free beer.
To begin, it has to be said that The Catechism Cataclysm is a good movie. To a point. A specific point. There is a moment in the film where the entire thing flies off the table, and without giving it away, I’m fairly confident you’ll be able to spot it. Up until this moment near the end, the film is very theatrical and smoothly paced. The relationship between Robbie and Billy feels realistic and manages to balance well between the idea that these characters go way back (from Billy’s POV) and that they’ve just met (from Robbie’s POV). Through this dynamic, we get to see the relationship develop like we would in countless other films, but we also get the dramatic irony of seeing Billy consistently disappointed that he is not as important to Robbie as Robbie is to him.
Beyond the great set up, the film is legitimately funny. Not only well-written in its comedy, but managing to utilize jokes and comedic moments that feel natural to the characters they’re creating. Not to mention the way this film specifically celebrates the art of storytelling. From Father Billy’s unorthodox sermons to Robbie making up stories on the river, the film demonstrates a true creativity and originality that is becoming harder and harder to find in the wake of the news that Transformers 4 will be going into production soon.
And then they ruin it. Within the span of about 60 seconds, writer/director Todd Rohal destroys everything he managed to build over the course of his film thus far. It makes no sense. It is not in keeping with the reality of the film we had been watching. It’s pretty much just insulting to the audience that stuck with him until that point. Some may watch it and believe I’m exaggerating, some will appreciate the film’s complete unpredictability, but I would defend my position that it was a catastrophic mistake to anybody.
Special features include a commentary track by Todd Rohal, Steve Little, and Robert Longstreet, outtakes, trailers, and a short film entitled Sasquatch Birth Journal 2, which is literally just 5 minutes of a sasquatch standing in a tree, giving birth. It’s directed by David Zellner and has apparently no connection to the feature film.

About the Author:

Joe Sanders Joe Sanders is a podcaster, playwright, and college instructor in Kalamazoo, MI. He has a master's degree in playwriting and a bachelor's degree in creative writing from Western Michigan University, where he currently teaches thought and writing, and is the host of the Quote Unquote Guilty podcast, part of the Word Salad Network.
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