In 10 Words or Less
Just another pretty face with a filthy, filthy mouth
Loves: Stand-Up, "Tenacious D"
Likes: Sarah Silverman the woman
Dislikes: Sarah Silverman the actress
A comedic concert movie generally lives or dies on the strength of the comic's material, as there's usually nothing else to see. A comic, a mic, an audience and a lot of jokes. That's what Jesus is Magic is at its core, as Sarah Silverman takes a California stage and delivers a wandering collection of stories and observations.
I've seen a lot of Silverman, good (her TV gigs) and bad (her various films), and I've enjoyed her non-acting work, but I can't say I've seen much of her stand-up act before. As a comic, she has an unusual style that relies almost entirely on delivery, as her low-key jokes and odd pacing wouldn't work for most people. But when this cute-as-a-button woman opens her adorable mouth and vomits up jokes about race, rape and religion in her sweet-as-honey voice, it's hard to not be entertained by the contrasts.
Silverman's biggest strength is the persona she crafts for the audience, mostly through her deadpan delivery and willingness to be silly. She has an arsenal of subtle facial tics and total control of her body, putting forth an image of someone who might not understand what she's saying, as if she was divorced from reality, only to follow it up with a broad comedic dance that appeals to a baser sense of humor. Unfortunately, the big laughs found early in the film go missing later on, and frequently, the show was at best amusing. Even the audience doesn't get to into the show.
Part of the problem might be the way the movie is put together, as the stage show is intercut with filmed portions, including a number of comedy songs, performed surprisingly well by Silverman. These segments are interesting, and put her into some cute new looks, but they become roadbumps to the main feature. On their own, as bonus features perhaps, they would be great, especially the '60s-style "I Love You More" and the ridiculous "Porn Song," but they are somewhat shoehorned into the show.
Directed by Liam Lynch ("Tenacious D"), the movie has a definite sense of style, avoiding the monotony that marks so many stand-up films. The musical segments are especially impressive, with the first one, "I Can Write a Show," which Lynch co-wrote with Silverman, being the standard-bearer for the film. There are a few minor non-musical segments, but they aren't seen enough to create a rhythm or to prevent them from feeling out of place. Comedy Central's "Pulp Comics" did a better job of integrating material like this, but the film's budget wouldn't allow Lynch to do everything he wanted.
A clear keepcase holds the one-disc release, which has an animated anamorphic widescreen main menu, offering options to watch the film, select chapters and view bonus material. There are English Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0 tracks, but no subtitles and no closed captioning. The scene selection menus have titles and animated previews for each chapter.
The anamorphic widescreen transfer looks very good, with beautiful color, spot-on detail and solid black levels. Overall, the image is crisp and well-defined, and has no noticeable dirt or damage in it.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 audio presented Silverman's voice in crystal-clear quality, and puts some of the audience and music into the sides and rear speakers, a set-up that can be a bit disruptive when the crowd decides to be heard.
There's a handful of extras included, of which three should be new to most people. First up is a feature-length audio commentary with Silverman and Lynch. On a decent chat track, a few stories are shared while Lynch praises Silverman, and the influence of Bugs Bunny is revealed. It's mostly Silverman being Silverman though, which her fans should enjoy.
There's more of that in the in-depth 35-minute featurette "The Making of Jesus is Magic." This is a solid documentary look at how the film came together, unlike most of the fluffy "making of" specials on DVDs. It's followed by a music video, "Give the Jew Girl Toys," which pits her against Santa in a cute Christmas-themed clip.
Also included on this disc is Silverman's segment from The Aristocrats. Her version of the legendary joke was one of the best in the film, so for anyone who missed it, here's another chance to hear it. A pair of trailers, for this film and The Aristocrats wraps things up on the extras' end.
The Bottom Line
Silverman is an entertaining performer, but she's not for everyone's tastes. If you can enjoy ridiculous takes on so-called taboo subjects, this will be a good way to spend a bit of time. The DVD looks and sounds nice, and a few quality extras give you more bang for your buck. Despite the film's shortcomings, some of which I'm willing to blame on my own expectations, Silverman's act is still more fun than most of what's out there, and it's worth checking out.
Francis Rizzo III is a native Long Islander, where he works in academia. In his spare time, he enjoys watching hockey, writing and spending time with his wife, daughter and puppy.Check out 1106 - A Moment in Fictional Time or follow him on Twitter
*The Reviewer's Bias section is an attempt to help readers use the review to its best effect. By knowing where the reviewer's biases lie on the film's subject matter, one can read the review with the right mindset.