by Joel G. Robertson
…And God Spoke is a faux-documentary (aka a mockumentary) that chronicles the struggles of two fictitious filmmakers, director Clive Walton (Michael Riley) and producer Marvin Handelman (Stephen Rappaport) as they attempt make their biggest feature yet.
Despite having made such “classics” as Dial S for Sex and Nude Ninjas, Clive and Marvin realize they need a successful mainstream picture to hit the big time. So, with their largest budget to date (11 million) their next, big screen endeavor is so obvious– they’re going to adapt the most popular book in the history of western civilization, the Bible. Not a single story from the Bible, mind you, but the entire book, working their way from Adam and Eve to the Book of Revelations.
However, they soon discover that even low-budget biblical epics have their share of problems.
The feature-length mockumentary came into its own with 1984’s This Is Spinal Tap, and while that landmark film paved the way for the many that followed (most of which featured the core creative team from Spinal Tap). …And God Spoke is an underseen classic that deserves its place in the pantheon of mockumentary greatness. It’s the moviemaking equivalent to Spinal Tap and proves that someone other than Christopher Guest is capable of working successfully in the genre.
Although …And God Spoke has a singular connection to the Guest-directed films (it features actor Michael Hitchcock, who’s been in every one of Guest’s films), it stands alongside Waiting for Guffman, Best in Show, and This Is Spinal Tap as a top-notch comedy masterpiece.
Perfectly capturing the low-budget, moviemaking experience, …And God Spoke works because of the sincere desperation of the two leads, Riley and Rappaport. Whether it’s Rappaport’s used-car salesman schtick that just skirts the line between sleazeball and showman, or Riley’s self-loathing need for recognition as a serious artist, the actors never portray their characters as one-dimensional. Likewise, the rest of the cast is brilliant in their roles. Whether it’s the stoner Jesus or biker R.C. Bates as God, there’s a verisimilitude to the performances.
It just feels real.
That’s why this movie works and why more recent endeavors like Guest’s For Your Consideration and A Mighty Wind fall flat. The characters in …And God Spoke are always believable as they struggle with an absurd situation that isn’t simply a series of marginally funny (or worse unfunny) contrivances. But, perhaps most importantly, the characters are also sincere.
Their optimism (particulary Handelman) in the face of ever-increasing obstacles and setbacks allows you to connect to them and their goals. You want to see them achieve their cinematic magnum opus even though it’s obvious they’re in way over their heads. Whether it’s casting an “Eve” who has a massive snake tattoo on her body, or building a full-size Noah’s Ark that’s too big to fit through the door of the warehouse in which it was built, it’s obvious to everyone (but Clive and Marv) that this film is destined for complete and absolute failure.
Or is it?
…And God Spoke is a truly forgotten comedy gem that deserves its place on the mantel next to Guest’s best work. It’s dry, wry humor plays like the best episodes from The Office or Modern Family and it never hits a false note. If you’re a filmmaker, a fan of mockumentaries,or someone who likes movies about movies, then …And God Spoke isn’t just a movie you’ll want to rent, it’s a movie you’ll want to own.
Director: Arthur Borman
Starring: Michael Riley, Stephen Rappaport, Michael Hitchcock, R.C. Bates, Lou Ferrigno, Andy Dick, Eve Plumb, and Soupy Sales
Genre: Comedy/ Mockumentary
Running Time: 82 minutes
MPAA Rating: R
Where you can find it: Currently available on Netflix Instant Play!
…And God Spoke Clip