Jesus Revolution (2023)

Genres - Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Religious Drama  |   Release Date - Feb 24, 2023 (USA)  |   Run Time - 120 min.  |   Countries - United States  |   MPAA Rating - PG13
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Review by Steven Yoder

Jon Erwin (I Can Only Imagine) co-directs with Brent McCorkle (Unconditional) and co-writes with Jon Gunn (American Underdog) to bring Greg Laurie's biographical story Jesus Revolution to the screen. Through compassionate filmmaking and excellent acting, the docudrama sheds light on a local hippie movement that became a national and international wave.

Pastor Chuck Smith (Kelsey Grammer) leads a dwindling congregation at Calvary Church while his daughter, Janette (Ally Ioannides), feels like her dad is disconnected from the realities of the changing world. When she takes his sarcastic comment about meeting a hippie to heart, Janette turns up with Lonnie Frisbee (Jonathan Roumie) and brings him to the family home. Initially repulsed, Chuck agrees to listen to Lonnie, discovering his unique perspective on the world and the Bible. Meanwhile, Greg Laurie (Joel Courtney) is having a crisis of his own. His father is gone, and his mother is an alcoholic. His lack of direction lands him with the local hippies because of his attraction to Cathy (Anna Grace Barlow). But when her sister nearly ODs, they both end up at Calvary. This fateful move intersects Greg with Chuck and Lonnie; together, the three create the most significant revival of the Christian faith in modern history.

As a writer and director, Erwin knows the subject of modern Christianity well. His previous film, The Jesus Music, likely led him to Jesus Revolution since the two subjects are indelibly connected. Because of this, he portrays the topic with a capable blend of knowledge and compassion. His script may tone some people down, but it doesn't whitewash their failings. It is a relatively accurate account of the foundation of the 1970s Christian revival, spurred on by the disillusion hippies were beginning to feel with "dropping out." Grammer performs admirably as a man struggling with his faith while reinventing himself out of his own prejudices. Roumie channels his previous portrayal of Jesus Christ in The Chosen into the flawed Lonnie, whose jaded view of the drug scene guides his turn to faith. But Courtney's turn as a young man whose life has been filled with adversity leads the show. These flaws bring the three men together, and their dynamic keeps the film enthralling and entertaining.

The sets and settings in the film are authentic, giving a genuine feel to the movie. Baptismal scenes were completed at Pirates Cove in Newport Beach, where the original baptisms occurred. The costumes fit well, too, with a lot of leather fringe swinging everywhere. But the best technical aspect is the music selections. In both good times and bad, the song choices fit the mood.

Jesus Revolution not only tells a story but also provides a message of hope. And more than the religious aspect, it shows that people of differing viewpoints and backgrounds can find common ground and purpose if they stop to honestly and openly tune in to each other's potential for love and grace.