Despite all the brouhaha surrounding the
title of this film, The Pope Must Diet is actually a fairly innocuous piece of classic British farce along the lines of the recent John Goodman vehicle, King Ralph (only much more competently executed). Due to an error on the part of a semi-deaf priest in the Vatican (Adrian Edmondson of The Young Ones Vivian fame), liberal Father Albinizi (Coltrane) is selected as the new Pope. Although the new Holy Father is more into entertaining orphans with his Les Paul than he is the Papacy, he soon takes control of the situation and, smelling the proverbial rat, begins a personal audit of the Vatican's fiscal holdings. Even the best Catholic is aware of the notorious corruption in the Church, and it is from this that the film takes its moral stance. Naturally, Rome's Higher-Ups attempt to discredit this ethically sound new Pope, and they do so with varying degrees of success. The Pope… is one of the more predictable films I've seen in a while -- from the outset, you're more or less sure of how the film will end -- but because it's a farce that's no great calamity. Coltrane, who seems to have a knack for playing Catholics, is a wonderfully talented comedian. In anyone else's hands, the role of Pope Albinizi could easily have degenerated into flat parody, but Coltrane imbues the character with his inherent sense of upbeat comic timing. This isn't a perfect film by any means; some of the lines seem rushed, and there are far too many annoying sub-plots cluttering up the story like so many Swiss Guards. Nevertheless, The Pope… comes off as a heartfelt shot against the obvious corruption in the Vatican, a dodgy subject even in the best of times.