Indie Roundup: ‘The Catechism Cataclysm’

The Catechism Cataclysm” opens with a meandering shaggy-dog tale about an old woman with a gun. The story is being relayed by Father William Smoortser (Steve Little), who can’t seem to draw any kind of religious relevance or meaning from the tale, leaving his parishioners baffled.

Smoortser is an unlikely priest. He’s an emotionally stunted man-child who seems more interested in heavy metal than in the Good Book. In fact, he claims that he got ordained because he really dug Judas Priest.

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After being strongly encouraged to take some time off, Smoortser manages to inveigle his childhood idol, a washed-out would-be rock musician named Robbie Shoemaker, to go on a canoeing trip with him. Shoemaker’s rock ‘n’ roll days have long passed, and he’s now an embittered, divorced middle-aged shmo who sets up spotlights for the Ice Capades for a living. He’s lonely enough to agree to the canoeing trip as long as Smoortser buys beer.

The first half of the movie settles into an odd couple routine that is as funny as it is awkward. Shoemaker is at first mystified and then increasingly uncomfortable with Smoortser’s child-like adulation of him, while Smoortser becomes more and more infuriated that Shoemaker isn’t the rock god he had imagined him to be.

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But then the duo runs into a pair of giggling Japanese girls with money to burn. They call themselves Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, and they plan to deliver their taciturn, haunted chaperone, Jim, down the Mississippi River to “freedom.” What that means isn’t remotely clear but it takes on an increasingly sinister cast.

I’m not going to reveal what happens next not so much because I don’t want to spoil the movie, but because I’m not really sure what the hell happened. Let’s just say the film makes a sharp left turn into a hilarious head trip. Reviews about this film have been sharply divided. Some critics were left as bemused and dissatisfied as Smoortser’s parishioners. The movie might be rambling and purposefully pointless, but it’s also a hoot.

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