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film review

Richard Dawkins, left, and Lawrence Krauss in Sydney, Australia, in a scene from The Unbelievers.

Anyone interested in the contemporary debate between atheists and religious believers will gain nothing of value from the documentary The Unbelievers, Gus Holwerda's almost comically superficial film that follows American physicist Lawrence Krauss and English biologist Richard Dawkins on an Australian book tour to promote their pro-science, pro-atheism message.

Krauss and Dawkins offer a reasonable one-two-punch argument that no supernatural being is required to explain the origins of the universe 13.6-billion years ago, or to explain how human beings evolved from the primordial chemical soup. But that much would seem to be basic high-school science, and the ease with which the scientists demolish a Muslim debater in Canberra and an ill-informed archbishop in Sydney is not impressive, though both Dawkins (author of The God Delusion) and Krauss (A Universe from Nothing) seem exceedingly self-satisfied.

Dawkins scores some points on how U.S. politicians claim to be religious for their political careers, but there's simply not enough time given to any meaningful exchange of ideas. Otherwise, a succession of direct-to-camera celebrity endorsements from Sarah Silverman, Ricky Gervais, Cameron Diaz, Bill Pullman, Woody Allen and others tends to undermine rather than reinforce the seriousness of the message.

The film culminates in a 2013 Reason Rally in Washington, where Dawkins and Krauss receive rock-star welcomes from an ebullient throng, and proceed to preach to the happily unconverted.