The Pope's Exorcist review by Mark McPherson - Cinema Paradiso
The marketing for The Pope's Exorcist is the typical "true story" paranormal marketing. We get a boy possessed, a demon terrorizing, and a wear priest coming to the rescue despite his lapse in faith. What some people might not know is that this is a comedy. Well, not an intentional one.
The ridiculous nature can be felt immediately once Russell Crowe pops up as Father Gabriel Amorth. He doesn't take his job all that seriously when realizing the church doesn't fully believe in his methods. Favoring both theater and skepticism, Gabriel ruffles some feathers for being unconventional. He drinks a lot, cracks jokes, and gets around on a moped which is too rich for words.
He's the only Father for the job when the young Henry of Spain gets possessed. Henry's demon has a real mouth on him, especially with how he pranks his fearful family with miming voices and openly speaking of sex. When the first priest gets catapulted out of Henry's room and the demon remarks "wrong priest," I broke out in laughter. And it only gets more absurd from there.
This is the type of film where the screenwriter punched up the script with some jokes and just never stopped. The back and forth between Gabriel and Henry is comical almost by design. Perhaps it's why most modern paranormal exorcism movies tend to keep the dialogue to a minimum. The mismatched pairing of a quirky priest and acid-tongued demon makes for great comedy and it's something this movie can't turn away from.
Thankfully, the film doesn't try too hard for silliness. There are dark elements present, as when Gabriel is reminded of his war stories that ended in tragedy. He gets the standard hallucination of people lost, complete with spooky sounds and effects. It's not bad, but it also doesn't hold a candle to Gabriel's dad jokes and Henry's vile language. Even the other moments, such as a gas explosion, are staged in a manner that brings out the unprovoked laughs.
The Pope's Exorcist is a lot of fun, even if not all the expected moments of absurdity. The earnest nature of this exorcism tale bundled with the stylish direction makes the comical aspect an unexpected yet welcomed byproduct. Watch this one with a group of friends.