Louis Theroux has always known how to get great comedy moments out of his documentaries, all the way back to when he was just kicking rhymes on a Southern hip-hip station, or trying to become a WCW wrestler. In recent years though his films have taken a more serious turn, dealing with issues like mental health and the prison system. But in My Scientology Movie (his first film to be made for cinemas as opposed to TV) it’s his humour that makes everything come together.
The biggest worry going into My Scientology Movie, as great as Theroux is, was how the hell he would get any fresh material out of throwing shade on The Church of Scientology. It’s been covered a lot recently, from HBO’s Going Clear to even South Park. And straight at the beginning he explains that the Church have refused to give him any access at all. So Theroux approaches it in two interesting ways. Firstly, he casts actors to play notoriously secretive Scientology top dog David Miscavige, and Tom Cruise, and the casting process takes up a lot of the early scenes. It’s not as cheesy as it sounds—the actor picked for Miscavige is actually genuinely creepy and intense (the fake Tom Cruise is less good), and they have fun with it.