Don Verdean

Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
Don Verdean Movie Poster Image
Thin characters, dumb jokes ruin faith-themed comedy.
  • PG-13
  • 2015
  • 96 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Honesty is the best policy; lying can lead to suffering (both your own and others'). Telling the truth is worth it. On the downside: some cultural stereotypes (Israeli, Chinese, etc.).

Positive Role Models & Representations

Even though Don and Carol are good people and Don learns a lesson about lying, the characters are too "quirky" and ridiculous to be very strong role models.

Violence

Some guns and shooting. A character has a fake bullet wound, with fake blood gushing from it; another character is shot for real (within the movie's reality). Scene of punching. Shouting and arguing. A creepy skeleton. Verbal threat of "putting dead dogs in their cars."

Sex

Main characters kiss. A character is said to have married a hooker. A salt pillar person shows two huge "breasts"; another statue shows what appears to be a penis. A character hopes to have "hot chicks lined up." Words "hermaphrodite" and "whore" used.

Language

Language includes uses of "damn," "bastard," "screwed," "crap," "butthole," "butt," "fart," "uterus," "caca," "nuts," "testicles," "penis," "anus," and a comically mispronounced "DOOTCH-bag."

Consumerism

A sermon includes mentions of cereals: Grape Nuts, Life, Raisin Bran, Special K. A character covets a Pontiac Fiero.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

A minor character has gone to jail for dealing drugs. Cannabis mentioned.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Don Verdean is a lowbrow comedy from the creators of Napoleon Dynamite and Nacho Libre that has themes related to faith and spirituality -- an odd-couple pairing for sure. Even though the two main characters are good and learn a valuable lesson about lying, most of the rest of the movie consists of crude jokes and some stereotypes. Viewers will see guns and some shooting, with images of fake blood, as well as a real (within the movie's world) gunshot wound. There's also fighting, punching, and arguing, as well as verbal threats. Characters make reference to "hookers" and "whores," and private body parts are shown on salt statues (it makes sense when you see it...). The main characters also kiss. While characters don't use the strongest swear words, milder ones show up a lot, including "bastard," "butt," "crap," etc. A minor character is said to be a drug dealer; cannabis is mentioned.

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What's the story?

Don Verdean (Sam Rockwell) is a Biblical archeologist who once inspired people with his discoveries -- like the shears Delilah used to cut Samson's hair. But lately, things have been slow for Don and his assistant, Carol (Amy Ryan), until preacher Tony Lazarus (Danny McBride) offers to save the day. Tony's church will put up money for more expeditions, which will in turn increase the numbers of Tony's flock. But when Don can't find Goliath's actual skull, he steals another skull and tries to pass it off as the real thing. Israeli digger Boaz (Jemaine Clement) figures out the ruse and starts blackmailing Don so he'll turn his pursuits from spiritual to profitable. Unfortunately, this involves creating more fakes, starting with the Holy Grail itself.

Is it any good?

A good idea at the center of this comedy fails to generate any interesting commentary on the business of religion, nor does it conjure up anything spiritual. The few laughs it offers are disappointingly lowbrow. Husband-and-wife filmmaking team Jared and Jerusha Hess (Napoleon Dynamite, Nacho Libre) are good with "quirky," and when they concentrate on good characters, like Don and Carol, they can be warmly endearing.

But most of the other characters are annoyingly thin and are mainly objects of ridicule. Because Clement (Flight of the Conchords) is so talented, he makes a couple of his sideways line readings funny, but on the whole, his Boaz is more of a stereotype. But DON VERDEAN's biggest missed opportunity is that it's more focused on a plot about lying (the characters do pay the price for it) than it is on the concept of faith. It could have been either a strong satire or a spiritual journey, but instead it's just a bunch of dumb jokes.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about lying. Why does Don tell his first lie? How does it spin out of control, and how does it affect others? Does he face the consequences?

  • Does the movie reinforce any stereotypes? If so, how? Is it OK to use stereotypes for humor?

  • What violence does the movie show? How often do guns come into play? Are the guns made to look cool? Funny? Dangerous?

  • What does the movie have to say about religion, spirituality, and faith? Can religious people do bad things?

Movie details

For kids who love quirky movies

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