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Jefferson Root Written by Jefferson Root
Nov. 3, 2011 | 4:53 PM





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THE CATECHISM CATACLYSM



As I was waiting for the screening of THE CATECHISM CATACLYSM to begin, I started to get nervous.  There only seemed to be about twenty other intrepid souls in the theatre ready to take this cinematic trip, and the trailer for the film had promised something quirky, to say the least.  There’s nothing wrong with being idiosyncratic, but quirkiness for its own sake runs rampant in the indie film world, and wears out its welcome mighty quick.  In spite of two game performances by its leads, THE CATECHISM CATACLYSM squanders its tongue twisting title and offers little more than contrived peculiarity.


The film begins with Father William, (played by Steve Little of HBO’s Eastbound and Down) confusing his parishoners with a random story that seems to have little or nothing to do with their established Bible study topic.  When the elder parish priest suggests he take some time off to reflect, he decides to try and reconnect with an old acquaintance who had influenced his life choices back in high school.  When his friend Robbie (Robert Longstreet) shows up, he’s far less grand than William remembers him.  Even worse, Robbie barely remembers William at all, as a brief high school romance with the priest’s sister represents their only connection.


High school is a very impressionable time for everyone, and the idea that William has built Robbie up in his mind, only to be disappointed with who he’s become is a provocative one.  The problem is that writer/director Todd Rohal insists on muddying the waters with drastic tone shifts, an over reliance on random weirdness (Canoe Trip!), and a lot of juvenile humor that’s only good for a few fitful chuckles.


If CATECHISM means to satirize religion, it fails because it doesn’t go deep enough.  Aside from having Father Billy complain that “he’s never really been happy” (while on the toilet, no less) , the film does little to reveal the reasons why he decided to go into the priesthood, which makes it hard to care when he’s having second thoughts about it.  It also would need to be a lot funnier.  If it’s aiming for comic horror a la Sam Raimi, it needs more than a thorny font and heavy guitar in the opening credits to set the mood.


Even as it sends the movie off the rails, Rohal does manage one sequence of inspired lunacy.  It wouldn’t be fair to reveal too much, but suffice it to say that it involves Billy, Robbie and two Japanese girls who have a very strange idea about essential supplies for a river trip.


Little and Longstreet are capable actors, and both do as much as they can with the material.  But even at 75 minutes, the film feels thin.  Rohal does manage to bring the action full circle at the end of the picture, with Father Billy telling his inappropriate catechism stories with a tad bit more confidence.  He may have learned something from his adventures, but what that may be remains a mystery to the rest of us.


THE CATECHISM CATACLYSM begins a three night run at the Downtown Independent theatre in Los Angeles on Friday, November 4th. 


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