The Rite to remain tedious and repetitive

Tuesday February 22nd 2011

Religious films aren’t what they used to be. Unless you’re preaching to the atheistic converted (Paul, The Invention of Lying) or burying theology under talking lions and magical journeys (The Chronicles of Narnia: Voyage of the Jesus Boat), it can be difficult to get a cynical modern audience on board. After all, who needs two hours of a God-bothering Welshman when Paddy McGuinness’ Take Me Out is on every Saturday night and JoJo is STILL on the panel?

The Rite does little to buck the trend, quickly sacrificing its pleasingly ambiguous skeptic vs. believer premise in favour of a lesson in how ruddy great Christianity is. There’s even a spurious ‘based on true events’ label tacked on to the front of the film, but given that most of it is about Hopkins’ attempts to exorcise a totes preggers 16-year-old who keeps vomiting up nails, it might be stretching credulity a bit to call it factual. Brilliantly, the opening titles clarify that it’s actually just ‘suggested by the book by Matt Baglio’.

Hoppykins is of course as much fun as ever (especially when he’s ‘channeling’ demons and doing all sorts of fabulous accent work) but newcomer Colin O’Donoghue can’t really hold his own, however much he looks like Scott Mechlowicz from Eurotrip. And given the film’s total lack of scares and painfully familiar plotting, it’s hard to know who exactly it’s aimed at. Exorcist fans will be bored, Hopkins devotees will be confused, and Colin O’Donoghue obsessives exist only in the mind of Colin O’Donoghue.

One possible explanation: it’s a plot to weed out the world’s laziest film critics by seeing which of them will utilise the inevitable Rite/wrong pun. In which case, Peter Travers is packing his bags.