Saturday, March 4, 2023

In Theaters Now: Jesus Revolution


Age is a funny thing in movies; actors rarely seem to play their actual age. In the new Christian film, Jesus Revolution, Kelsey Grammer plays real-life pastor Chuck Smith who founded Calvary Chapel as part of the late-1960s Jesus Movement. But Smith was in his early 40s when the events of the film took place while the famed portrayer of Frasier Crane is in his late 60s.

Joel Courney plays a high school Christian convert in the film, though he’s been eligible to serve in the U.S. Congress for a couple of years now. But the most fun piece of casting is Jonathan Roumie as Lonnie Frisbee (and yes, that was the name of the hippie turned pastor - Frisbee.) What makes it fun is that everyone comments on Frisbee looking like Jesus. He says, “There’s no one I’d rather resemble.” Roumie is best known for playing Jesus in the web series, The Chosen.

There are a few other things that don’t exactly exemplify authenticity. Though the events in the story take place in Southern California, Alabama plays the role not terribly convincingly. And I’m not sure who else was bothered by this, but a young woman in the film is holding “The Way”, a popular paraphrase of the Bible. Which actually came out in 1972.

But the film does get something very important right. The feeling of revival; the excitement and passion of discovering that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is true and means something in the present age. I was a kid at that time, but I know people who lived through these times and they tell me they got this right. There are young people who rejected the values of their parents and looked for meaning in sex, drugs, and rock and roll. And didn’t find it. And then found meaning in Jesus.

You shouldn’t be surprised to learn there is a discrepancy between the views of the critics and the attending audiences. At Rotten Tomatoes, the critics gave a rotten rating of 58%, while the audience raved with a 99% positive rating. I would rarely trust either poll, but I found this critic’s quote quite interesting, “A gently told story preaching to the converts, assuming that evangelical

Christianity is unassailably the answer without considering this particular form of worship may not be the answer for all.” That was the opinion of Nell Minow of

Yes, why would these unenlightened rubes not realize that there’s more to this world than their old-fashioned faith? But they followed a leader who said, “I am the way, the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father except through me.” Rather narrow-minded, that fellow was.

And Chuck Smith said, “You have only one life and it will soon be past, and only what’s done for Christ will last.” Again, rigid theology, that. As Andre Crouch sang back in the day, “Jesus is the answer for the world today. Above Him, there’s no other, Jesus is the way.” Some of us still believe this. Maybe you should stick to reviewing films instead of religions, Nell.

Anyhoo, it is a rather corny film. But you might learn a little about an interesting time that has echoes in what is taking place at Asbury University today. And I’d give the church, Calvary Chapel, as presented in the film, our highest rating of Four Steeples.