In my review of the marketing for Don Verdean I wrote:
It’s a funny campaign for what looks to be a funny movie. Rockwell is always charming and the rest of the cast is usually super-dependable in roles of any size. The premise is intriguing and holds the promise of plenty of comedic fodder.
Well…it’s not really “funny” so much as it is “mildly amusing here and there.”
Rockwell plays the title character, a guy who’s making a living as a Biblical archeologist who specialized in “big” finds that he parlays into a series of DVDs and books to be sold to the Evangelical Christian market. He’s seemingly a true believer, not someone who’s just doing this as a scam or angle to get rich, which is good because he’s not. Facing pressure to discover from his new backers – a church run by the formerly disgraced politician, now turned revivalist preacher – he has to up his game, though. When he’s unable to do so he gets caught up in a web of lies and scams that he’s not comfortable with but which he needs to perpetuate in order to prop up his fading empire.
The movie, unfortunately, can’t decide what it wants to be. It’s not a farce because most of it is played too straight. Rockwell in particular isn’t winking at the camera at all and the script never really digs into the satire that lies in the Evangelical world, instead opting for a couple broad jokes whose potential never really pays off. But it’s also not a straight drama because it’s obviously presenting an exaggerated situation with quirky characters trying to navigate those waters.
The campaign did oversell the comedy a bit. It wasn’t outright deceptive, but it did present more of a straight-up comedy than the movie wound up delivering. Yes, there are funny moments but they’re more scattered throughout a story that’s more involved with the ethical compromises Don is asked to make in the second half of the story. And that second half is less compelling than the first, which sets up a story about Christians needing proof of historical events to solidify their faith, which winds up not being faith. That’s a more compelling angle and the deceit of the second half could have brought that home instead of getting sidetracked with less interesting subplots. Those subplots wound up making up most of the material presented in the campaign, which is why I felt slightly misled.