Synopsis: 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.
In too many ways history tends to repeat itself. It’s possibly due to a lack of learning from the literal blueprint that we have or it could plainly be the plight of humanity, forever doomed to be a never-ending remake with too many explosions and a lack of joy and originality. Nevertheless, as evil and terrible things reappear like YouTube ads, so does the good in a universal balance. It all tends to simply be repackaged and rebranded. This film is set during a time when a large sect of Americans, mostly people that were crowned as hippies, wanted to opt for peace and love as opposed to war, death, and fascism. Fast forward to today and you can find many correlations between what some call negatively call the “woke” movement and hippies of the past. And just as before, in between the movement and fascism are religion and spirituality. Unfortunately, in this real-life sequel, religion playing for both teams.
“It’s not something to explain, it’s something to be experienced.”
Revolutions don’t start themselves, they are ignited. And sometimes they’re ignited by a man whose last name is a toy. Directed by Jon Erwin and Brent McCorkle, Jesus Revolution has set a new standard for faith-based feel-good films. They have finally found their footing and the religion rebrand is in full swing. Based on a book of the same name and the very real movement that began in the 1970s, Jesus Revolution not only tells the unbelievable story of a monumental spiritual awakening that would eventually spread across the United States, but it also tells a story of love, growth, and humanity. As a generation of young people search for freedom and connection through music, drugs, or whatever can help them escape a reality of war, racism, and capitalism, one man, Lonnie Frisbee thinks that he knows what they’re all really looking for, God. Within that peace and love sect that Frisbee was once a part of is Greg Laurie, a young man struggling to find his own path. But before anything changes, Lonnie will need the help of a close-minded Pastor by the name of Chuck Smith who he hasn’t met yet. When all three paths converge, history will be made.
“The truth is always quiet, it’s the lies that are loud.”
This film does two things very well, it tells an easily digestible story and it’s able to deliver its message without making you feel as if you sat through a Sunday service. The story doesn’t skirt around its flawed characters, the prevalence of drugs, or the hypocrisy of some Christians. Instead, it decides to lean in and tackle each subject head-on showcasing its power of faith. As someone who isn’t religious, I can appreciate the historical aspect of the story as well as the spiritual context through a philosophical lens. While it does some things well and features some great performances, it falls short where it also succeeds—in storytelling. What is set up to be a difficult mind to change, is enlightened almost instantly, and the deep dive into the Revolution that you expect is merely flirted with as romance becomes the focus. Nevertheless, you will find inspiration, love, tolerance, and acceptance. Let’s just hope that those virtues translate into real-world actions. The soundtrack is fun, the costume design is well done, and there is some memorable visuals. This uplifting film is more enjoyable than expected and will probably surprise you. Its rewatchability is medium-high.
Pacing & Pop
The film begins quickly and perhaps too quickly in some respects. Where initial abrasiveness could’ve thrived on bubbling tension to make the payoff more deserved, we instead get a quick character turn that results in a faster-than-necessary pace. It doesn’t take away the inspirational punch that it lands, however, the blow could’ve been increasingly more substantial. What popped for me was the history of it all. The unlucky meetings, the national impact, the very human outcome, it’s fascinating.
Characters & Chemistry
Starring: Joel Courtney, Jonathan Roumie, Anna Grace Barlow, DeVon Franklin, Kimberly Williams-Paisley, and Kelsey Grammer
The entire cast delivers solid performances. Kelsey Grammer charms as his character embodies growth and as he takes a stand against closemindedness. Joel Courtney and Anna Grace Barlow harness the youth of the era which translates nicely into their chemistry with one another. However, the real standout is Jonathan Roumie as Lonnie Frisbee. He is all charisma and magnetism with a tinge of fire. If the real Frisbee was anything like Roumie, I can see how people got swept up in what he had to say.
Jesus Revolution hits theaters on February 24, 2023. Remain safe and enjoy.
Rated: PG-13 Runtime: 2h Director: Jon Erwin and Brent McCorkle Writers: Jon Ewin and Jon Gunn Producers: Kevin Downes, Jon and Andrew Erwin, Josh Walsh, and Daryl Lefever Based on: Jesus Revolution by Greg Laurie and Ellen Vaughn
Jesus Revolution has set a new standard for faith-based feel-good films.
Senior Critic. Observing the human race since 1988.