Holyman Undercover is equal parts funny and disturbing. Now, it’s not Ted Dekker House disturbing, but sure is in the way that humor surrounds and permeates reality for Amish twenty-something Roy Weichbrodt.
Poor Roy finds out his mother has delayed his departure from the Amish community by lying about his age, and when he finally leaves, he’s visiting Hollywood in search of his long-lost uncle, Brian. Since they’re both played by David A.R. White, Roy sports Amish gear for much of the film while Brian sports a poorly-pasted on mustache. But already, you’re discovering Holyman’s charm.
The movie comes across like a cross between the humor of Napoleon Dynamite and the religious message of Saved! White may be playing someone Amish, but the faith-based portions of the movie are reasonable commentaries on what it means to live a life of faith, and how Christians (un)successfully relate to others through the medium of Hollywood. I was pretty skeptical initially, but the movie itself charmed me with its self-deprecating humor and some physical humor stunts… and it’s open-hearted take on criticizing Christians.
Roy gets some incredibly bad “Christian” advice from Roy. Roy says Christians should be holy people undercover, never blasting people with the Gospel but sliding it in sideways and hoping they’ll all pick it up. I actually saw a movie back in the day (early teens) about a lone ranger Christian who tries to be all undercover and live out his life the way he wants when he’s not in costume. And that’s basically how Roy ends up living his life.
In love with one woman in the Hollywood scene, Roy ends up pursuing another to keep up his front, while he’s doubling as the devil in a hit comedy. Of course, there are necessary cameos by people like Fred Willard, John Schneider, and Clint Howard, but this is basically the David A.R. White show. That’s apropos because it’s based on his one-man traveling comedy routine; but thank goodness White can carry this with a straight face and meaningful theology at the same time.
For viewers interested in some lighthearted family-friendly comedy and theological discussion, Holyman Undercover has the opportunity to blow open our expectations for what humor looks like and what Christian comedy can do. David A.R. White will either end up becoming a hero or go bankrupt, but the “takeaway” from watching the film is that you can only go “undercover” as a Christian so long before your soul starts to look a little darker and less focused than before.
Given the subject matter and the delivery, I have to admit that White’s project succeeds on both agendas: it’s funny AND gospel-focused. And we could use a few more films just like it.