February 24, 2023 / Cineplex Pictures Canada
Joel Courtney, Jonathan Roumie, Kimberly Williams Paisley, Anna Grace Barlow, Kelsey Grammer
In the 1970s, young Greg Laurie (Joel Courtney) is searching for all the right things in all the wrong places: until he meets Lonnie Frisbee (Jonathan Roumie), a charismatic hippie-street-preacher. Together with Pastor Chuck Smith (Kelsey Grammer), they open the doors of Smith’s languishing church to an unexpected revival of radical and newfound love, leading to what TIME Magazine dubbed a JESUS REVOLUTION.
Written By Darren
Rating 3 out of 5
Jesus Revolution is a faith based film that will play well to its target audience, that is still interesting for those outside of the Christian faith due to the historical context in which the story plays out and the performance of Kelsey Grammer.
I am not a religious person, and normally do not enjoy these faith based movies. They tend to blur together, having similar storylines and a script that pushes religion hard, which plays well to those of the Christian faith but does not speak to larger audiences. While Jesus Revolution still has the hallmarks of the genre that will play well to audiences who have enjoyed past faith based films, the true story and historical context of a changing America in the early 1970s truly allows this film to stand out from others in this genre. Plus, a soundtrack featuring classic rock hits of the early 70s and late 60s is a great positive that always helps elevate a film for me.
America is at a crossroads. The Vietnam War is raging on, with civil unrest as to the justifications of the war. The hippie movement has begun, with young people preaching love and peace, not war, who are not taken seriously by older generations. At the same time, there is a weakening of faith being experienced given the circumstances unfolding across America. However, Pastor Chuck Smith in Southern California begins a spiritual awakening by preaching to a younger demographic that the church had previously not been connected with as he connects with the hippie movement, including a young Greg Laurie who is just embarking on his spiritual journey, resulting in one of the largest spiritual awakenings in American history.
Vietnam, civil unrest and the hippies are a great historical backdrop for the film’s story to play out against. Watching this spiritual movement spread across California and reach across America is a truly unique situation only granted because of the social circumstances in America at the time. From a historical context, it creates for a captivating story depicting one of the largest spiritual awakenings in American history as the film follows both Smith and Laurie, who would go on to be prominent figures within Christian faith in America. Adapting Laurie’s book of the same name, the film does provide a and biased sanitized version of the events, glossing over some of the darker moments in Laurie’s life at the time, including his encounters with drugs and troubled family situation, but given the film’s faith based messaging and purpose, this won’t bother those interested in the story. Clocking in with a two hour run time, the film does slow its pacing in the middle act and drag momentarily. This middle act would have benefited from being anywhere from ten to fifteen minutes shorter, but overall the screenplay does a good job of keeping you invested in the story and characters throughout the film.
Carrying the film is the performance of Kelsey Grammer as Pastor Chuck Smith. Representing the older generation simply writing off the hippies and their actions, Smith’s character arc is one of acceptance, kindness and love as his worldly view and faith is expanded due to meeting hippies of the Christian faith. Grammer captures this with a warmth and earnest presence that allows Smith to become a character in the film that not only captures the attention and hearts of his congregation, but also of the audience. Without Grammer’s performance, the story would not nearly be as compelling as you need Smith to be a figure to capture hearts and minds, and Grammer truly brings the faith to life every second he is on screen.
Opposite Grammer as Laurie is Joel Courtney, of The Kissing Booth fame and of the severely underrated Super 8. Courtney does a commendable job capturing the youthful inquisitiveness that begins Laurie on his spiritual journey, making for a good co-lead for the film. The role allows Courtney to showcase his abilities as an actor and the promise his career holds when given the right roles.
While there are minor issues with the screenplay, there is nothing that derails Jesus Revolution from being a good film. It all comes down to your personal religious views, as if you are of the Christian faith, there is more for you to enjoy from this film than the more casual viewer like myself. With a great historical context that allows the story unfolding to have the spiritual impact it aims for on the audience, Jesus Revolution is an entertaining film that is sure to captivate audiences largely thanks to the commanding and wonderful lead performance of Kelsey Grammer.