Sarah Silverman: Jesus is Magic

Joan Rivers without crutches.

A comedienne who looks like a cross between Marlo Thomas and Sandra Bullock pretty much can command the attention of an audience for 70 minutes even if her material is uneven. Sarah Silverman, Jewish and sassy, is neither borscht-belt loud nor SNL smooth; she's just out to gross you out with her out-there racism, sexism, and self-defecating humor in Jesus is Magic.

Silverman is funny at times, fails sometimes, and smiles most of the time to let you know she's cute enough to get away with stuff Jon or Martha Stewart wouldn't dare for fear of alienating their WASP audiences. In this way she's closer to Sarah Bernhard and Dave Chappelle, or maybe Richard Pryor without his manic delivery and Joan Rivers without her Jewish crutches.

So what do I consider offensive and funny? Try "The best time to have a baby is when you're a black teenager." What do I consider offensive and not funny? Try singing "You're gonna die" in a nursing home and then shaking grandma's corpse in a casket. That reminds me--whenever she's not on stage, she's not funny, as if the stage protects her from the PC police and her own poor writing. At least a third of the film is staged offstage, so you have an idea why I award it barely a "B."

Judging it only as filmmaking would land an unarguable "C" for its awkward editing and uninspired camerawork (the film repeats the same long shots and close ups as if it were a crime to vary from a lockstep pattern). It has an amateur look even for the low demands of documenting a stand-up act.

As it turns out, I spent some of the time admiring her as she does herself in a mirror, making out with herself on that mirror. Now that's a bit I never saw before. I did laugh at her girlish correction of a PC violation: "When I say 'retards,' I mean they can do anything." That's the wit she could fire at us in more rapid succession to let us see the beast behind that beauty.