Sarah Silverman: Jesus is Magic DVD review

James is unimpressed with the factory-line shock tactics of the moderately controversial comedian…

Sarah Silverman is an edgy comedian who clearly has some intelligence and creativity, so why has she decided to put out a feature film that doesn’t showcase her best stuff? Strangely, side-splitting laughs are very much in short supply on this disc. Jesus is Magic is effectively a movie composite of live stand-up, sketch segments and musical interludes and unfortunately – a little like its structural nature – it’s an aggravating mixed bag.

The film looks and runs slick thanks to the direction of Tenacious D in the Pick of Destiny helmer Liam Lynch (the man most widely-known for once bellowing “this is my United States of Whatever!”) whose music video experience is evident in the song skits and concert movie-style camerawork. The set-up pays off in that it doesn’t play out like a bog-standard stand-up DVD, but not even this format can save the film from frustrating flatness. For example, the whole movie is book-ended by humour-free awkward encounters between Silverman and some “friends” whose success Sarah competes against. It’s tumbleweed time for sure, but top of the flops in the skit-stakes has to be a backstage scene plonked in the middle of things where Silverman plays diva and throws a tantrum because her manager hasn’t brought the right type of bottled water. So often, it’s like you’re holding out on the live show for the comedian to hit her stride, but then she takes a detour to another desperately unfunny diversion and doesn’t deliver a consistent wave of gags.

Such is the nature of this beast. Silverman’s self-centred American-Princess shtick yields comedy that’s wickedly close to the bone and in Jesus is Magic she touches upon such taboos as racism, rape, the Holocaust and Aids without ever flinching. Her persona brings some precious gems and vicious humour but it gets tired and tepid as Silverman falls back on another lazy ethnic joke instead of following her imagination through. The offensive outbursts cease to be effective as she goes into overkill, and Jesus is Magic’s screenplay seems to have been written with the ideal of “when in doubt, make another joke about ethnic minorities people or say something inappropriate and naughty!” firmly at the fore.

The “Making Of” documentary is a pretty soul-destroying experience as we get taken through the creative process via a really pedestrian feature. If you’re interested in seeing Silverman hang backstage with her team, eating her daily fruit salad and talking with Lynch about their project then the featurette is worth the half hour. Otherwise, it’s an uninteresting excursion that destroys the illusion of stand-up spontaneity and sadly shows how scripted and structured the whole thing is. The same is true for Silverman and Lynch’s audio commentary, but at least the “Give the Jew Girl Toys” music video – where Santa Claus is critiqued for his apparent Christian bias – offers something of value in the bonus material.

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Altogether, Jesus is Magic is a hit-and-miss affair, with too few hits and too many misses. Every highlight moment of hilarity – for example the You’re Gonna Die musical number where Silverman sweetly serenades a bunch of old folks – is outweighed by the mass of content that doesn’t catch fire and doesn’t even appear to move the audience (though maybe that’s due to the excessive organisation of this endeavour, or it could be the character of Hollywood comedy audiences).

Sarah Silverman could be magic, but the impression left by this release is that she’s happy to paddle about in a puddle of politically-incorrect puerility that, beyond shock value, isn’t going to make people crease up in laughter time and time again. As a DVD showcase it doesn’t make you want to see her live gigs or go all out to find her material. Unless you can’t get enough of being bombarded with ironic yet uninspired xenophobic zingers, I’d say don’t waste your time with the Jesus is Magic DVD and instead watch her infamous “I’m F***ing Matt Damon” ditty on YouTube for free.


2 stars
2 stars

Sarah Silverman: Jesus is Magic is out today.



1 out of 5