Directors: Jon Erwin and Brent McCorkle
Writers: Jon Erwin and Jon Gunn
Stars: Jonathan Roumie, Nicholas Cirillo, Kelsey Grammer
Synopsis: The true story of a national spiritual awakening in the early 1970’s and its origins within a community of teenage hippies in Southern California.
Filmmakers Jon Erwin and Andrew Erwin are known for their spiritual films focused on Christian stories. In Jesus Revolution, Andrew offers his place as co-director to Brent McCorkle, while Jon Gunn helps the other Jon with the screenplay that tells the origins of the Jesus Movement, an evangelical Christian movement that began in the late 1960s to early 1970s. The movie’s target audience is pretty clear, but does it also work for people totally disconnected from any religion, God, or anything that transcends science?
Personally, I believe that a review should make clear the author’s position concerning the main theme of the film. If I’m not part of the target audience, I must be honest and pass on this information somehow; otherwise, readers may be misled into believing that the movie isn’t for them. Roger Ebert said it best, “a good review is one that manages to get the reader to realize they would probably enjoy the film even if the author is of the opposite opinion”. That said, Jesus Revolution is clearly intended for Christian viewers and/or people with a strong connection to any religion.
Despite being born into a Christian family, I don’t believe in any God nor am I religious. In fact, I couldn’t be further from that. So how can a movie like Jesus Revolution be interesting to someone like me? If there’s one thing Erwin and McCorkle get right, it’s the separation of faith and spirituality from religion. Everyone possesses the first two attributes, whereas religion is necessarily linked to some kind of entity or organization – so much so that some are described as cults.
Therefore, as a viewer outside the spectrum for which the film was made, Jesus Revolution is at its best when it focuses on recounting the true events that gave rise to the respective movement, as well as offering a more positive perspective on the hippie community. The mere idea of thousands of young people leaving everything behind to follow Jesus Christ in the incredibly dedicated form of decades ago is impressive in itself. These days, with so much technology in our hands, it’s hard to imagine that such an awakening could happen again in the same manner.
Jesus Revolution takes advantage of the extraordinary performances of the cast – Kelsey Grammer is mesmerizing as Chuck Smith – and one of those ideal scores for relaxation and meditation to elevate a story that, unfortunately, cannot escape a repetitive narrative structure that, on many occasions, sounds too, well, preachy. Deeply inspiring dialogue should happen spontaneously, but the movie relentlessly pursues conversation after conversation with key expressions, popular sayings, and “sweet words” that come off as forced and sanctimonious.
In addition to that, Lonnie Frisbee (Jonathan Roumie) is a character that raises tons of questions. During the first half of Jesus Revolution, Lonnie holds a unique, personal connection with God, demonstrating an unparalleled devotion to the divine and being a tremendously positive influence on everyone around him. However, as the narrative unfolds, Lonnie becomes extremely self-centered and hypocritical, caring more about the attention and fame he receives for performing theatrical miracles than about his initial mission of unity, peace, and love.
The film concludes, and the truth is that I don’t comprehend the character’s genuine intent. Jesus Revolution also diminishes the impact of drug consumption in the community and even tries to have fun with it, which I don’t particularly appreciate. Ultimately, Greg Laurie (Joel Courtney) and Cathe’s (Anna Grace Barlow) self-discovery arcs, as well as their love relationship, turn out to be the most compelling storylines.
I recommend the movie for devout viewers with a strong connection to Christianity, but for those without religious ties, Jesus Revolution won’t convert you.