British writer/producer/filmmaker Louis Theroux's look into the church of Scientology could have been fascinating. Even Theroux himself, as narrator, asserts that he has little interest in pigeonholing the massive religion, founded by science fiction author L Ron Hubbard, and its followers, but this winds up being a bald-faced lie. My Scientology Movie buckles under a lack of information, sensationalist baiting techniques and, frankly, some seriously boring and shoddy filmmaking.
Along with former church bigwigs, Theroux attempts to work out the mysterious inner-workings of Scientology because, he says, he's genuinely interested. Sadly, this means painfully long scenes with secondhand accounts of Scientology's shadowy leader, David Miscavige, and constant reminders, for some reason, that Tom Cruise is all about Dianetics.
As Scientology is notoriously clandestine, Theroux sets out to cast Miscavige, Cruise and other church members in "reenactments," though we never actually see the final product of filming, instead watching glimpses into the filming process that don't hack it as behind-the-scenes interesting and, further, don't give as any insight into what these people actually believe or the hoops they reportedly must jump through to enter the church's good graces. Instead, Theroux repeatedly travels to a Scientology compound outside Hemet, California, where he is accosted by church higher-ups for trespassing. This smacks of desperation or, at the very least, a filmmaker who had little to go on and chose to manufacture conflict rather than provide any actual facts.
By the time the credits roll, we've no new information of any kind and most everyone's "Yo, Scientology is nuts!" assumptions stay firmly in place. It's possible we're meant to take the film as a humor piece, but My Scientology Movie never asserts its own genre to the point it matters, and for a 99-minute film, it sure feels like a hell of a lot longer.
+ You were right—this stuff is crazy
- No actual information of any kind
My Scientology Movie
Directed by John Dower
Center for Contemporary Arts, NR, 99 min.