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Louis Theroux: The Most Hated Family in America in Crisis (2011)

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Louis returns to the Phelps family to find that several members have left the cult, and that they are being sued.



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Title: Louis Theroux: The Most Hated Family in America in Crisis (2011)

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Credited cast:
Himself - Presenter
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Steve Drain ...
Betty Phelps ...
Fred Phelps ...
Jael Phelps ...
Libby Phelps ...
Sara Phelps ...
Grace Phelps-Roper ...
Megan Phelps-Roper ...
Rebekah Phelps-Roper ...
Shirley Phelps-Roper ...


Louis returns to the Phelps family to find that several members have left the cult, and that they are being sued.

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Release Date:

14 August 2011 (Australia)  »

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Follows Louis Theroux: Under the Knife (2007) See more »

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Doesn't add anything of note to the first film and seems unnecessary
6 May 2012 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

The Phelps family seem like the perfect subject for Louis Theroux since his mode of operation generally is to go into odd or extreme groups (families, hobbies, jobs etc) and chat with the people in an innocent-abroad type way. With the first film he did on them it did actually work and it made for a good film where he was able to explore their believes and question them pretty well; it also helped that Keith Allen did a similar film that was so awful that it made Theroux's look even better by comparison. Suffice to say I didn't think the first film had left the job half-done or that there was a huge area of complexity within the very simple Phelps' family that was untapped, so I wasn't sure what the point of a second film was.

After it screened for the first time I read the title and the content and saw that it involved people leaving the group and also a civil law-suit being taken out so perhaps this was going to open the subject out a lot more and give Theroux more cracks to politely ease himself into. Having now seen the film for myself it seemed that, if this was the known aim of the producers then if nothing else it was certainly known to the church members as well because Theroux pretty much gets nothing other than a replay of the things he already got in the first film. What he covers is the same protests, the same unquestioning bigotry of the members and the same presentation of people being knowingly awful but justifying it by convincing themselves that they have a right to be this way – basically the same material of the first film but played again. The law-suit gets a mention and a few former members get a few minutes to talk so we know they are rejected but otherwise it is all the same as the first film.

The problem with this is not only that it seems unnecessary but also that, without the "introductory" feel of the first film, there is not exploration to be had and with nothing new to offer it just feels like Theroux was trying to get ratings off the back of the previous film – because the Phelps seem no different here than teenage boys trolling on the internet, happy to shock, happy to upset and convincing themselves that they have a right to do it. It doesn't help that everyone is wise to Theroux this time; "the thing that confuses me..." starts Louis at one point, only to be told "you're not confused", which is totally true, he isn't and it is also evident from other comments that Theroux is seen as a weasel and they are keen to make sure and give him only the party-line without any cracks. Access is noticeably less than in the first film and discussions are not as good. The only good bit is also a repeat of last time, where Louis chats with the 18-year old Grace, which is a repeat of when he did get good material from a couple of the teenage girls. This time though, Grace is surrounded by three other members of the family to make sure Louis can't break her down – it is still good though because Grace is not only quite sweet in her manner but also seems to be a creative photographer and it is sad to see her living how she is.

Generally though, there is nothing here and if you've seen the first film on this subject there really isn't a reason to watch this one; and if you haven't seen the first one then why watch this follow-up when the first is much better? I've watched some great Louis Theroux films in the last month (Miami Megajail for example) and have some promising ones coming up (the Extreme Love pairing) but this was a unnecessary film that offers nothing and one of his weaker films as a result.

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