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MOVIE REVIEW: The Nature of Existence

An average documentary on the meaning of life

The Nature of Existence: Rates a C.
Courtesy photo

This movie has a great intro, as filmmaker Roger Nygard shows footage of himself as a kid, talks about his religious background, and how church was merely a countdown in his mind for when the family would go out for pancakes

(On a side note: is there a difference between flapjacks, hotcakes, and pancakes? I just told my girlfriend there wasn’t. Maybe that could be Nygard’s next topic to tackle – food. Oh wait…Michael Moore is probably already on that).

The topic covered – the meaning of life – done by the same guy who gave us Trekkies, is an interesting thing to tackle. Except we’ve been down this path before.

A few years ago Bill Maher did his version with Religulous. And like Maher’s film, this has some interesting people giving interesting takes on God, but none of it is earth shattering.

I enjoyed Nygard a lot more as a narrator. Maher comes across way too arrogant, but Nygard is too polite, and often doesn’t ask follow up questions I was curious about.

A few times I felt Nygard was just using this all as an excuse/write-off for a wonderful vacation.

I also didn’t care for the amount of his friends he threw in to comment on such matters (although one friend is very smart and has a great confrontation with a preacher on a college campus). It’s the kind of confrontation that was interesting, and done in a way Maher should’ve approached his film (instead of just coming across like a prick).

The movie had its share of bizarre moments.

Religulous gave us a Christian amusement park. This movie gave us religious wrestling. I kept expecting Mickey Rourke’s character to pop up. Instead, the lights went out, and it was Jesus that popped up from the canvas. No, he never gave Beelzebub a head butt…there was no Pontius Pilate Pile Driver. After the wrestling it became a slightly more theatric sermon inside the ring. It was a wonderfully entertaining segment.

Where Maher snuck cameras into the Vatican and we were supposed to think how bizarre it was he got thrown out (How many places wouldn’t throw you out? I’m guessing if you walked into a Coca-Cola plant with cameras rolling, you’d get thrown out to. What does that prove?)

But in this movie, we get to see the other dead Popes that you can view at the Vatican, and we find out the filmmaker can meet with the Pope. Well, that is, if he was willing to cough up $20,000 (hey, there are orphans that need to be fed).

I would’ve preferred to see more famous people commenting on God and religion. We see former Saturday Night Live member Julia Sweeney (who wrote a book called Letting Go of God). She has a few good points.

And Carl Sagan’s widow shows off her cool house and talks about marijuana.

But why did I need to hear so much from the waitresses at a religious/spiritual restaurant?

Overall, I enjoyed the spiritual journey the film took me on. Perhaps it wasn’t the most original piece of filmmaking, and I could’ve done without so many shots of the filmmaker holding the camera as he talked to various professors, gurus, shamans, Buddhist monks, etc.

I’m giving the movie a C.