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