Cinema Review: Don Verdean | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Tuesday, September 26th, 2023  

Don Verdean

Studio: Lionsgate
Directed by Jared Hess

Dec 10, 2015 Jemaine Clement
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Archeologist Don Verdean (Sam Rockwell) specializes exclusively in Biblical antiquities. The discovery of 1,000-year-old shears that may (or may not) have been the ones used by Delilah to part the mighty Samson of his locks made him famous on the mid-American Church circuit, where he’s spent the last ten years signing books and giving lectures to congregations across the country. As the turnouts at his public appearances rapidly, Verdean finds an ally in Pastor Tony Lazarus (Danny McBride)—who offers to bankroll his excavations in exchange for exclusive display rights to his findings. (Lazarus hopes to boost attendance at his church, which is rapidly losing its flock to a new house of worship founded by a rival minister, Fontaine—an ex-Satanist, played by Will Forte.) Verdean heads to the Holy Land and nearly comes back empty-handed, but instead gets tied up in a web of lies at the hand of his crafty Israeli liaison, Boaz (Jemaine Clement.)

Don Verdean opens with a hilarious, ‘90s-style video documentary on its hero’s achievements, and stays quite funny roughly through its first half hour thanks to the game cast. Verdean is the sort of role that Rockwell is always good in, and Amy Ryan is a nice fit as his earnest assistant. Even more fun are McBride and Forte as rival, over-the-top reverends; it’s Clement, though, who steals the show—his deadpan delivery and goofy accent make all of his lines pretty humorous, even when a joke falls flat. Unfortunately, the movie suffers from pacing issues when it becomes less about Verdean and more about Boaz’s criminal scheming. Still, there’s enough fun in the latter part of the film to keep the audience on board—a staged, Last Crusade-style hunt for the Holy Grail is one of the movie’s funniest scenes. If you’re a fan of the cast members, Don Verdean is worth seeking out, even with its slow second half.

Author rating: 6/10

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