FILM REVIEW — Uneven but good-hearted “Jesus Revolution”

Published 12:02 am Friday, February 24, 2023

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“Jesus Revolution”

Lionsgate Films

Directed by Jon Erwin and Brent McCorkle

Starring Kelsey Grammar, Joel Courtney, Jonathan Roumie, Kimberly Williams-Paisley and Anna Grace Barlow

Rated PG

2 ½ Stars

“Jesus Revolution” is an uneven film, filmed with moments of genuine feeling as well amateurish story problems.

It’s a movie that will have you smiling in one moment and shaking your head in the next. Still, it’s a film with a good heart, some nice performances and an appealing twist on the typical faith-based film genre.

Based on a book by Evangelical Pastor Greg Laurie, this is a dramatized chronicle of the Jesus Freak wave of religious conversion that swept through California in the late-1960s. Kelsey Grammar plays Pastor Chuck, the man who does the unthinkable when he opens the doors to his church to counter-culture hippies, including their charismatic leader, Lonnie Frisbee (Jonathan Roumie).

It’s also the story of Laurie himself (played by Joel Courtney) at a time when he was searching for meaning in his life.

He finds it in the form of Cathy (Anna Grace Barlow), but more importantly, in the gospel of Jesus Christ. His conversion experience during an ocean baptism sequence is quite moving, albeit a little abrupt to be fully convincing.

That’s part of the problem with the entire film. It’s impossible to truly convey an entire religious movement into a two-hour movie, so the film is littered with odd bits of dialogue and strange story coincidences that exist only to move the story forward to the next chapter.

It gives the film a ham-fisted tone that seems out of character with its other more-polished elements.

Chief among these is the acting. Grammar, in particular, is quite good playing the square Pastor who opens his heart to the youth in his congregation. Courtney is also quite convincing, although Kimberly Williams-Paisley, playing his alcoholic mother, is a little melodramatic for my tastes.

Finally, Roumie is very charismatic playing the leader of the hippies, although his move away from the church is also a little too abrupt to come across as believable.

The production values are rock-solid, with the cast often spending time outside in the glorious California sunshine. Cinematography, costumes and editing are all as good as anything you’ll find in a typical Hollywood film.

Indeed, “Jesus Revolution” feels like something out of an indie studio in most aspects, other than the screenplay that forces the cast into character contortions so that they can move the story along.

It also has a fairly unrealistic relationship to the sex, drugs and rock-and-roll of the era, although perhaps that’s to be expected in a faith-based film that’s rated PG.

Ultimately, I was impressed by much of the movie, on a technical as well as an artistic level. There’s enough conviction on display to make the movie easy to swallow. Sure, I think that this story might have benefitted by a screenplay that was willing to dig into the grittier issues of the day, but all things considered, “Jesus Revolution” turns out to be a pleasant little surprise of a movie—and not just for the believers.

Movie reviews by Sean McBride, “The Movie Guy,” are published each week by Orange Newsmedia and seen weekly on KFDM and Fox4. Sean welcomes your comments via email at