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‘Jesus Revolution ‘doctrinally dodgy’ but uplifting

By JOHN MULDERIG, OSV News | Published March 22, 2023

NEW YORK (OSV News)–The Woodstock generation gets religion in the warmhearted fact-based drama “Jesus Revolution” (Lionsgate). Refreshingly free of the usual objectionable ingredients, this generally appealing Evangelically-flavored look back at a somewhat surprising chapter in Baby Boomer history is doctrinally dodgy but ethically uplifting. 

This is the poster from the movie “Jesus Revolution.” OSV News photo/Lionsgate

The plot initially concentrates on the unlikely collaboration between Lonnie Frisbee (Jonathan Roumie), a believing hippy, and Pastor Chuck Smith (Kelsey Grammer), a previously starchy California minister. After the two are brought together by Chuck’s daughter, Janette (Ally Ioannides), Lonnie convinces Chuck that the Flower Children are ripe for conversion. 

As the duo’s expanding mission leads to mass baptisms, the focus shifts to two of their eventual converts. Greg Laurie (Joel Courtney) is a troubled teen with a complicated family background, including the alcoholism of his barfly mom, Charlene (Kimberly Williams-Paisley). Cathe (Anna Grace Barlow) is Greg’s emotionally steadier true love. 

Christian viewers of all stripes will likely agree with the movie’s message that the hedonism and narcotics abuse into which many young adults fell in the 1960s was at least as misguided as the consumption-driven materialism against which they were rebelling. In that respect, the script penned by Jon Erwin (who co-directed with Brent McCorkle) and Jon Gunn is spot-on. 

But the sacramental theology briefly referenced in the script is askew from a Catholic perspective. Both baptism and the Eucharist are portrayed as merely symbolic, with Chuck even altering Jesus’ words of institution to reflect this viewpoint. 

Provided they’re sufficiently well-catechized to be proof against such a defect, older kids as well as grown-ups can safely take this stroll down psychedelic-era memory lane. Along with its momentary divergence from sound teaching, however, the movie includes a scene in which a character overdoses that’s probably too frightening for younger children. 

Mature viewers will sense echoes of the great St. Augustine of Hippo’s long search for the “beauty ever ancient, ever new” in this retrospective of a mass spiritual journey undertaken far closer to our own time. Yet they may also wonder how lasting or ephemeral the widespread embrace of the Gospel that resulted from it ultimately turned out to be. 

The film contains negatively depicted drug use and a potentially upsetting medical situation. The OSV News classification is A-II—adults and adolescents. The Motion Picture Association rating is PG-13—parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13. 


“65” (Sony) When the spaceship he pilots is wrecked by meteors, a humanoid alien (Adam Driver) crash lands on prehistoric Earth where he and the only other survivor of the disaster, a young passenger (Ariana Greenblatt) who reminds him of the ailing daughter (Chloe Coleman) he left at home, must trek to a rescue vehicle that detached from the main vessel and now lies atop a nearby mountain. Along the way, they’ll have to dodge an array of predatory creatures, including dinosaurs large and small. The determination of Driver’s character to safeguard his accidental protege is admirable and the bond that develops between the two is enjoyable to observe. But most of the action is devoted to the miseries of the Mesozoic Era, making co-writers and directors Scott Beck and Bryan Woods’ sci-fi adventure a toilsome slog for viewers, albeit one that includes few objectionable ingredients, making it probably acceptable for older teens. Images of a gory wound, potentially upsetting plot developments, at least one mild oath, about a half-dozen crude terms. The OSV News classification is A-III—adults. The Motion Picture Association rating is PG-13—parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13. 

“Champions” (Focus) Positive basic values, including an implicit pro-life message, underlie the somewhat rough-grained surface of this sports comedy, adapted by director Bobby Farrelly from the 2018 Spanish-language film “Campeones.” To avoid prison time following his arrest for drunk driving, an emotionally isolated basketball coach (Woody Harrelson) whose career has been stymied by anger issues, agrees to train a local team made up of mentally challenged youngsters as a form of community service. Even as he connects with his new charges (most prominently Kevin Iannucci, Madison Tevlin and Joshua Felder), he also takes a fresh interest in an aspiring actress (Kaitlin Olson) with whom he previously shared a one-night stand that ended in intense mutual disdain but who, by coincidence, turns out to be the sister of Iannucci’s character. While respecting the dignity of the disabled kids, Mark Rizzo’s script successfully reaps laughs from their quirky personality traits as it charts the protagonist’s journey toward emotional fulfillment. But the trip is not a fit outing for kids or even teens, especially since the screenplay’s perspective on human sexuality, although sound in its ultimate goal of deeper commitment, is too broadly permissive. Offscreen casual sex, some premarital sensuality, considerable sexual humor, mature themes, about a half-dozen mild oaths, at least one use of the F-word, frequent crude and crass language, obscene gestures. The OSV News classification is A-III—adults. The Motion Picture Association rating is PG-13—parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13. 

John Mulderig is media reviewer for OSV News. Follow him on Twitter @JohnMulderig1.