Essentially a cinematic compilation of a six-webisode series, Marty and Doug's New Religion
is about two semi-entrepreneurial guys (Can you guess their names?) who decide to start a religion for pretty much all the wrong reasons. For awhile, their not so elaborate scam works with a handful of easily influenced followers, a growing sense of purpose (admittedly an off-kilter one) and a just plain ole' awesome religion. But, before long, the prayerful partners are confronted by a hostile neighborhood church, a seriously ticked off Jesus and their own inner demons.
Assembled on film for a modest $5000, Marty and Doug's New Religion
looks and feels like improvisational comedy from a not quite ready for prime time improv troupe. This is not to say that the film's a disaster... It's not. However, despite the obvious attempt to build a cohesiveness between webisodes, the film as a whole feels disjointed and goes through extended moments where the response is more a smile than a laugh. You might compare it to your average Saturday Night Live
episode, though it's a tad funnier and a tad edgier.
Marty (Greg Vorob) and Doug (Dan Conrad) at times feel like they could be transplanted smack dab in the middle of a Kevin Smith film, though Marty and Doug's New Religion
is fairly tame by Smith standards. Vorob and Conrad have a nice, laid back chemistry with one another and you can sense pretty strongly that as these webisodes move along things are getting quite a bit better in virtually every aspect of filmmaking.
It's arguable that Marty and Doug's New Religion
is simply too straightforward, with Conrad's screenplay not wasting much time at all with anything unnecessary like plot development or character development. The jabs at the disorganized nature of organized religion show up immediately and are consistently present throughout the film. At times, these jabs are not only funny but insightful. Other times, it seems like Conrad and director Dan Kowalski lean a bit too much on broadly drawn caricatures and stereotypes. Their flock includes a brain yet suggestible girl (Lisa Peart), an Asian (Jiho Lee), a hottie who's actually an ordained plant from another church (Molly Montgomery) and a host of others. Performances overall feel spontaneous, which works wonders at times while falling flat at others.
The biggest problem with Marty and Doug's New Religion
is that it looks and feels like a $5,000 film. As a film writer with a fierce devotion to ultra-low budget cinematic fare, I've literally seen hundreds of films produced for anywhere from $100 to a few thousand dollars. A few years ago, this film might've been impressive given its paltry budget but in this day and age technology's reached the point where a couple grand can produce a mighty fine film (though it still helps to have a few decent connections for editing, sound mix, post-production, etc.). This isn't a bad film, but there's simply no question that it could have been considerably more successful even on its modest budget.
That said, there's something fun and endearing about the project and it will be interesting to see where Kowalski and crew go from here. Among the film's supporting players, Lisa Peart leaves the strongest impression as a young woman whose caricature of the easily influenced follower is funny and a little sad because it's almost spot on perfect.
For more information or to check out the webisodes yourself, visit the Marty and Doug's New Religion website.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic