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.
“Jesus Revolution” isn’t what I expected and you might also be quite surprised. Based on the true story of the Christian movement in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, Jon Gunn and Jon Erwin adapt Greg Laurie’s book to create an inspirational story that allows viewers to step back in time to discover a ripple of a story that became a tidal wave sweeping across America.
To read Pam’s 3-star review go to RHR
I find that one of the biggest faults where most faith-based movies are concerned is their lack of subtlety. So often, while preaching to the choir, their moral is put across with the delicacy of a sledgehammer to the face, simplistic writing, overearnest acting and sappy music used with abandon. This ham-fisted approach doesn’t engender any faith in the power of the filmmaker’s message the filmmaker; the used car salesman approach doesn’t work for me where persuasion of any kind is concerned.
While Jon Erwin and Brent McCorkle are no less earnest than other directors of faith-based movies, their “Jesus Revolution” is more successful because it doesn’t hit the viewer over the head with its moral. That it does not take as many liberties with the truth as so many fact-based films do works in its favor as well. Set in the early 1970’s, pastors Chuck Smith and Lonnie Frisbee (Kelsey Grammar and Jonathan Roumie, respectively) couldn’t have been more different in their approach to spreading the gospel. The former, conservative and set in his ways, remarkably has his faith renewed when his daughter brings the latter to their church and then their home. Frisbee, a free-spirited hippie, is earnest in his approach and unlike many so-called Christians, puts into action the lessons he espouses. His enthusiasm and Smith’s reach in the Southern California community where he’s established help create a movement that grows larger than they could have imagined, the pair eventually holding ceremonies in which they baptize hundreds at a time in the Pacific Ocean.
A parallel story, focusing on Greg Laurie (Joel Courtney), a teenager from a broken home, trying to contend with his damaged mother (Kimberly Williams-Paisley) proves equally compelling. Stuck in a military academy, the artist readily abandons the confines of the life his mother has set up for him, spurred on by free-spirited Cathe (Anna Grace Barlow) to find another way. It’s to Erwin and Jon Gunn’s credit, who collaborated on the screenplay, that this plotline is equally compelling and their eventual meeting with Smith and Frisbee doesn’t feel calculated.
Grammar has seldom been better, Courtney serves notice he’s a young actor to watch and while Roumie, with his work as Jesus in “The Chosen,” seems intent on typecasting himself, he wisely doesn’t overplay his role. While the film does overstay its welcome, there’s a low-key earnestness in its execution by all concerned that powerfully conveys its message while serving as a compelling piece of historical drama. By the end, I didn’t feel as though I had been preached at but rather compelled to witness this story and revel in the happiness its real-life characters discovered.