Brian is an average middle-class American. And like many average Americans, his understanding of faith and piety has become a bit unhinged. While many Americans believe they are their own god, Brian has actually decided that he is his own messiah…or rather the messiah of an entire Texas town and the surrounding countryside in a 100 mile radius.
How has he come to this conclusion? Well, apparently, there are entire families of “regional messiahs”…each of whom has the power over life, death, and eternity for individual small towns across America. Brian discovers this fact along with the fact that he is a fourth (or perhaps, fifth) generation messiah when he is abducted by government agents and taken to an abandoned warehouse. The abductors attempt to get him to use his miraculous powers to change the world, but he cleverly uses his power to make the agents suddenly become compelled to leave the room in order to relieve themselves.
After fleeing his attackers, he decides that he will begin the full-time work of his “earthly ministry”. Unfortunately, he’s not really sure what that means and he doesn’t seem to know too much about the one he loosely uses as his role model, “J-Christ”. Though, from what he knows of it, the ministry of “J-Christ” doesn’t seem flashy enough for Brian, and because being humble, self-sacrificing, and trying to follow the Bible is a drag, Brian creates his own rules by which he should be a messiah. Among the rules of Brian, regional messiah, are: all miracles should benefit or be about Brian, baptisms will be sold for no less than $1.18, good house vibrations may be purchased for $33.99, and speaking with God is unnecessary unless God chooses to carve his messages in butter or, perhaps, door knob mold.
While all of these rules seem fine to Brian, he isn’t quite sure what his true special purpose for his “ministry” is. (Although, he thinks it might involve relieving suffering associated with the lower intestinal tract.) In order to force God to supernaturally reveal his purpose to him, Brian decides to rent a convention center, get T-shirts made, have television advertisements, and host a rally to usher in his reign as a regional messiah. Unfortunately, Brian doesn’t have the money to pay for this, what with not having a job and sponging off his sister, Miriam. (Brian, his wife, his son, and his brother, Aaron, all live off Miriam’s income in a single house.)
As such, with his two disciples in tow (the aforementioned Miriam and Aaron), he decides to try and sell a strange blend of arrogance, mysticism, and Christian terminology. Unfortunately, his first attempt, a walk-through soul cleansing and baptism station doesn’t end up attracting any customers, despite the fact that Brian has very carefully used the Wal-Mart approach to pricing. (Just charge a few cents less than competitors!) While discouraged, Brian decides to take the show house to house, this time selling “good vibrations.” (And no, he doesn’t have the Beach Boys in tow!) Unfortunately, the only person who takes them up on their offer for good house vibes is even nuttier than Brian.
As fund-raising is falling flat, Brian decides to seek out additional disciples, realizing that a good messiah needs more than two disciples. He’s reasonably sure that he needs five disciples, because “five” is the perfect number in the Bible. To no one’s surprise, he is soon to have to reassess this theory of perfection, as well. As the rally draws nearer, Brian’s problems and confusions continue multiply.
At times hilarious and other times touching, this mockumentary follows a man who so wants to be special that he’s willing to put everything else in his life on hold in order to be so.
The acting in this film is very good, with only a few instances where you start to get worried that it might unravel. Luckily, deft editing and good story twists prevent things from ever getting too out of hand. While everyone in the movie did a very good job acting, I think my favorite character was actually Celia, Brian’s wife. She plays a very simple woman who thinks Brian is a very good husband because “he pays for cable…and not just any cable, like the basic network channels, but the good stuff, with all the channels.” (Apparently, Brian chips in his public assistance check for that as his one contribution to the household.) Her character doesn’t have that many lines in the film, but she sticks out in my mind because of how hard it is to play that simple of a character. While Brian’s brother and most devout follower, Aaron, is also very simple, somehow he seems like a rocket scientist in comparison to her.