Tales of sheltered religious people (also nerds!) being tempted out of their virginy shells and going all bonkers over vice are my favorite types of tales! At first, the person is always all smug like, "I don't think so—not today, wide world of sin!" But pretty soon it's, "That Woody Harrelson seems like an all-right fellow" and "I suppose I could wager a ha'penny on the tiddlywinks tournament down by Yeoman's Pond." And then you're just a hop, a skip, a tiddle, and a wink from "WELL WHY DID GOD INVENT HEROIN IF HE DIDN'T WANT ME TO FUCK IT?!?!?!?!" (A lot of people don't know that 99.9 percent of children who abuse tiddlywinks grow up to build a prosthetic woman out of heroin and then fuck it. And then do the heroin.) Slippery slope. Gateway drug. Hilariousest movie trope ever.
Holy Rollers—despite being exactly like Kingpin, only with Justin Bartha instead of Woody Harrelson, Hasidism instead of Amishness, and international drug smuggling instead of bowling—is, surprisingly, not particularly hilarious. It's actually kind of a bummer, but an entertaining, affecting bummer throughout. Sam Gold (Jesse Eisenberg—current king of EVERYWHERE! Take a nap, li'l guy!) is just your reggsie Hasidic Jew, living a quiet, unassuming, awkward, devout, sexually curious, Brooklyny Hasidic life. He helps his mother with the malfunctioning stove, he works hard in his father's fabric shop, he peeks sheepishly at next door's porno through his bedroom curtains. Discontentment has not quite occurred to him yet.
But when his parents arrange an introduction to a local hottie for the purposes of sexy, sexy nuptials, Sam is mortified. He has exactly none American bucks with which to shower his fly mammy in necklaces and crap like that! How will she ever love him—how could she ever love a future that contains absolutely zero necklaces whatsoever!? Cue Woody Harrelson.
At this extremely opportune moment, Sam's next-door neighbor, Yosef (Bartha, silver-tongued halfling), shows up with a win-win proposition: just carry this suitcase full of "medicine" back from Amsterdam to help "sick people" get "better." If anyone asks any questions, just act SUPER-JEWISH, shrug a bunch, and go to sleep. In return, Sam will receive "hella hella necklaces." What Yosef really means, of course, is that Sam will be smuggling ecstasy pills in order to help bored people get high. In return, he will receive hella hella necklaces, tons of bucks, unlimited Dutch boobies to squeeze, and his father's bewildered, broken heart on a platter.
Holy Rollers' innocence-lost, you-can't-go-home-again arc is something of a cliché, but the film remains refreshingly nonjudgmental about its hero's burgeoning criminal career. Sam, as it turns out, has a naive knack for the international drug trade, and you can't help but feel exhilarated—envious, even—watching him absorb life in one great rush. I mean, he's no Randy Quaid in a straw Prince Valiant wig, but he'll do. He'll do.