Director Jon Erwin delivers his latest faith-based film in Jesus Revolution from Lionsgate. Brent McCorkle codirects the movie, while the script is a collaboration between Jon Gunn & Erwin. Jesus Revolution is the true story of a divided time when people came together by checking their preconceptions at the door and formed a movement by listening to each other and looking beyond their beliefs. This revival of radical and newfound love led to what TIME Magazine, in 1971, dubbed a JESUS REVOLUTION.
Young Greg Laurie (Joel Courtney) is searching for all the right things in all the wrong places. Voluntold to join ROTC, Greg would rather spend his days drawing. A series of events lead Greg to transfer schools, where he falls in love with Cathy (Anna Grace Barlow). She offers Greg a different outlook on life. Pastor Chuck Smith (Kelsey Grammar) deals with his trials and tribulations on the other side of town. He’s disconnected from his daughter Janette (Ally Ioannides), and his church is declining in members.
One day as fate would have it, Janette meets Lonnie Frisbee (Jonathan Roumie), a charismatic hippie-street-preacher. Initially hesitant about Lonnie’s preaching style, Pastor Smith soon realizes that he can spread the word of GOD more effectively if he lets go of his biased mantra. The duo soon open the doors of Smith’s languishing church and eventually cross paths with Greg for a journey of discovery, discovering what it truly means to be used by GOD.
Jesus Revolution opens up with a beautiful shot of people being baptized at the beach and introduces us to Greg as he answers Josiah’s (Devon Franklin) question about when his life changed. The filmmakers then employ the technique of bookend. Prior to viewing the film, I knew nothing about the Jesus Revolution. I’m a history buff and big on asking for facts from my elders, so I contacted a few of my spiritual advisors, who told me the basics of the movement. For the most part, Erwin hits all the beats; you would find a true story. However, the key here is while he follows a formula, the talent involved sells the material.
Outside of his turn in the 2001 thriller 15 Minutes, I’ve always had trouble taking Kelsey Grammar seriously due to his primarily comedic work. In this film, though, Grammar delivers a solid performance, effectively tapping into a man with an old-school mindset regarding religion. Additionally, while I wasn’t familiar with the faces of Joel Courtney and Johnathan Roumie, so it allowed me to identify with their characters organically.
Once the credits rolled on the film, I did some research on Pastor Chuck Smith and Lonnie Frisbee. Both men had some mild controversies that the film mildly hints at, but I can understand why the filmmakers didn’t delve too deeply. The rest of the supporting cast are placeholders to push the story along. Even the most novice moviegoer will recognize the script’s tropes for the characters.
Faith-based film is one genre that I avoid harsh criticism of. While I don’t attend church every Sunday, I believe in a higher power. Jesus Revolution is for a particular demographic who will get the most from the film. While I wonder if I will ever revisit the film, there is enough here to recommend it to those who enjoy faith-based films.
Final Grade: B
Jesus Revolution opens in theaters on February 24th
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