By: BabyRuth (Four Beers) –
Who’s ready for another faith-based cinematic release? How about one co-produced by WWE Studios? Really.
The Resurrection of Gavin Stone tells the story of a former child star who finds Jesus.
Thankfully, this is not a Kirk Cameron biopic.
Gavin Stone (Brett Dalton) went the Lohan route after growing out of his childhood role on a popular sitcom. Hard-partying and in and out of rehab, his latest stunt of trashing a hotel rooftop bar lands him in trouble with the law.
In lieu of jail time, he is offered 200 hours of community service working in a church in his hometown – one of those huge megachurches with video screens and an in-house rock band. You might say the church is kind of… cutting edge. You might also say that because the pastor is played by D.B. Sweeney (toe pick!).
This church is also known for their annual stage productions. This year they are putting on a play of the Passion, donkeys, blood and all (more on that later). Gavin sees the play as an opportunity to get out of mopping floors and auditions for the starring role of Jesus. Kelly (Angela Johnson-Reyes), the director, is hesitant to cast him but reluctantly agrees. Kelly also happens to be the pastor’s daughter and wouldntchaknowit, Gavin takes a romantic interest in her. But there’s only room in her life for one guy: The Lord Jesus Christ.
The real one, not Gavin in a Matt-Dillon-in-Singles-wig.
There’s also a catch. Everyone who appears in the play must be a card-carrying Christian. Gavin, who has apparently never attended a church service in his entire life, lies that he is and attempts to fit in. Get ready for some communion shenanigans!
Will Gavin’s experience end up being a life-changing one as he learns what is truly important and discovers this whole Christian thing is pretty cool? Will he reconnect with his estranged father (Neil Flynn)? Will Kelly eventually warm up to him and (literally) let her hair down? Or will Gavin go back to his old ways once the devil (a Hollywood producer) offers him one shot at a comeback the week of the big church play? Oh the suspense!
Faith-based films have gotten the reputation as being pretty off-putting to anyone not in their intended audience. Films like God’s Not Dead, Heaven is for Real, and Do You Believe? have been criticized for being preachy and for cartoonishly painting characters as black and white –the good believers vs. the evil atheists. Refreshingly, this one deviates from the formula. Make no mistake, there is a pro-God message, but it’s more of a gentle nudge than the head-bashing of those other films. Overall, The Resurrection of Gavin Stone is a good-natured story of redemption that is difficult not to be at least a little bit charmed by, if viewers allow it.
Much of that charm comes courtesy of Brett Dalton (Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D), who carries the film with a sincere performance. Yes, it’s the usual bad boy with a soul character arc, but he thoroughly commits and elevates the material (the screenplay is by the same writer as Moms’ Night Out, so…).
The supporting cast all fit in nicely, especially Johnson-Reyes who handles lines like “we’re doing this for the Lord,” the very best anyone possibly can.
Wrestling legend Shawn Michaels (this is a WWE release after all), makes his film debut as a reformed ex-con biker who serves as a mentor for Gavin. The part is fitting as Michaels went through his own redemption and is now a Christian himself. He turns in a sweet, understated performance in the small role.
“And if you aren’t down with that, I got two words for ya: um… Praise God?”
If you are looking for something groundbreaking, look elsewhere. This is a by-the-numbers message movie with predictable musical cues and often feels like something you’d see on the Hallmark channel, where it will likely find a home once the theatrical run is over. (To the film’s credit, the people behind it seem to be aware of this as there is a meta-moment when Gavin namechecks the Hallmark channel.) Still, it is harmless and pleasant, breezing along at a quick 92 minutes.
For a comedy, though, it’s light on the laughs. There are a few almost ones here and there, much of it Bible-humor, so know your audience, I guess.
Of course we are treated to the big play at the end (if that’s a Spoiler Alert, then please start getting out more) which takes up a considerable amount of time.
It’s an impressive production with lighting, elaborate sets, and even live animals. (That church must clean up during the weekly offering!) But can we talk about the crucifixion scene?
For a family film that doesn’t even dare include a kiss between its romantic leads, there is a hell heck of a lot of blood! I get that it needs to be dramatic and upsetting, but damn, that Kelly must have viewed The Passion of the Christ several times for inspiration.
Maybe this was the scene they submitted to distributor BH Tilt, who specializes in films in the horror genre (including 2013’s The Green Inferno).
The Resurrection of Gavin Stone is a nice, goodhearted movie with decent performances. Though nowhere near as ham-fisted and preachy as other recent faith-based offerings, it is clear this movie was made for a specific audience. That audience will surely adore it. Everyone else, wellll, maybe wait for Netflix (as Hawk Ripjaw correctly predicted in this week’s Trailer Reviews).
The Resurrection of Gavin Stone (2016) Drinking Game
Take a Drink: whenever anyone does Gavin’s sitcom catchphrase (“Don’t look at me!”)
Take a Drink: every time Gavin looks at the number of hours remaining in his community service
Take a Drink: at every mention of deep dish pizza (the film takes place in and around Chicago and boy do these characters love their deep dish!)
Take a Drink: every time you see a cross
Take a Drink: whenever anyone offers Gavin an alcoholic drink
Take a Drink: whenever anyone says “Jesus” (small sips)