SUNDANCE REVIEW: 'Catechism Cataclysm' a Silly Tale About a Priest's Crisis of Confidence

A silly, surreal romp that doesn't add up to much.

Todd Rohal's film, which is unlikely to connect with its target audience, is not so much blasphemous as just outrageous for the hell of it.

PARK CITY -- If a Bible falling in a toilet filled with diarrhea and other such pleasures are your kind of thing, then The Catechism Cataclysm is for you. The film is not so much blasphemous as just outrageous for the hell of it. A goofy, surreal tale about a priest's crisis of conscience that ostensible is a commentary on the creative process and the difficulty of getting movies made, writer-director Todd Rohal's film is full of non sequiturs and deadpan humor in the vein of Napoleon Dynamite. But this time, beyond thrill seekers on the Web, it's unlikely to connect with its target audience.

With a whiny, childlike voice -- and a brain to match -- Father Billy (Steve Little) is one annoying dude. Even his father superior can't stand having him around and gives him a leave to go out and find himself. This sets the plot, such as it is, in motion. Billy tracks down his sister's high school boyfriend Robbie (Robert Longstreet), whom he thinks is a heavy metal guitarist in a band, and arranges to go on a canoe trip with him. Never mind that Robbie barely remembers and can't stand Billy, this odd couple is soon paddling downstream.

Along the way, they meet up with a cackling pair of Japanese girls (Miki Ann Maddox and Koko Lanham) and their hulking silent accomplice Jim (Rico). But the girls may not be as innocent as they appear, and when they strap Robbie and Bobby into some primitive-looking headgear, the results are, shall we say, explosive. This is the cataclysm of the title, supposedly a battle between the light and dark forces. On the level of drama, it doesn't amount to much, but Rohal does come up with one priceless visual image of a decapitated man coming back to life with a rock for a head. It's silly, like the rest of the film, but here it's such an odd sight it makes cockeyed sense.

Needless to say, these two guys do not take a linear path down the river. There are numerous digressions in which the characters tell seemingly unrelated story, as characters might do in a Bunuel film, but obviously to a much lesser effect here. So there is the tale of a construction worked trapped in a pillar of concrete with only a hole for his mouth who falls in love with a passing women. If the idea is that this is no more ridiculous than the story of God turning Lot's wife into a pillar of salt in the bible, than it's a point well-taken, but the pieces of the film don't really come together as a whole.

Rohal deserves credit for having a quirky vision and sticking to it, even if it makes no sense and isn't particularly funny. If the rest of the film had been as effective at hilariously summing up of the mysteries and incongruities of life, then he might have had something.

Venue: Sundance Film Festival, Park City at Midnight
Production companies: Rough House Production
Cast: Steve Little, Robert Longstreet, Walter Dalton, Miki Ann Maddox, Koko Lanham, Rico, Enrique Olguin
Director-screenwriter: Todd Rohal
Producer: Megan Griffiths, Lacey Leavitt
Executive producer: Robert Longstreet
Director of photography: Benjamin Kasulke
Production designer: Cassis Miggins
Music: Joseph Stephens
Costume designer: Alison Kelly
Editor: Alan Canant
No rating, 81 minutes