'Pint-Sized Preachers': Tiny sermonizers

Pint-sized preachers Pint-sized preachers Photo Credit: National Geographic Channel

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DOCUMENTARY "Pint-Sized Preachers"

WHEN | WHERE Wednesday night at 10 on NatGeo

REASON TO WATCH Ever seen a 1-year-old onstage screaming about Jesus into a microphone?

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WHAT IT'S ABOUT Turns out 4 million people have, indeed, seen it, on the Internet, where Kanon Tipton of Grenada, Miss., became a viral-video sensation.

By the time the producers of "Pint-Sized Preachers" arrived, Kanon was 4 and thumping the Bible with fiery fervor, as his Pentecostal dad and bishop grandpa beam with pride. (The rest of us are left reading subtitles to learn what the mumble-mouthed tot is saying.)

Cameras also take us to see the word delivered by 12-year-old Terry Durham, the "world's youngest ordained minister" from Margate, Fla., and, lest this be a U.S. phenomenon, 12-year-old Matheus Moraes of Rio de Janeiro. Both tweens also lay hands on believers who say they've been healed by their touch.

MY SAY Faith-proving gift from God or exploitative horror story? Let's just say that "Pint-Sized Preachers" is underscored by a pervasive rumble of soundtrack music and occasional slo-mo effects that seem to portend Freddie or Jason slashing into view any second.

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It's a moody, almost expressionistic portrait, where only the studiously impassive narration pretends it's anything other than eerie efforts by the kids' guardians to shape Stars for Jesus. Kanon's dad admits to "training" his son, who practices in his room at a pint-size pulpit. Terry says he wouldn't be preaching if his grandmother "didn't groom me and guide me in the way that I should go." By the way, the narrator tells us, Grandma has been convicted of fraud.

None of which settles the question, but is meant to leave us unsettled about these mini-ministers -- despite the impression that their flocks remain minuscule.

BOTTOM LINE This muckraking hour promises revelation, delivers only Revelation.

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