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A movie still from a scene in "Jesus Revolution."
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‘Jesus Revolution’: Strong on feeling, light on facts

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The faith-based film “Jesus Revolution” exceeded financial projections by grossing $15.52 million on its opening weekend in theaters. 

The Lionsgate movie juggles the story of three men — Chuck Smith, Lonnie Frisbee and Greg Laurie — and their involvement with the Jesus movement, which captivated the nation in the late 1960s and early 1970s as hippies converted to Christianity and proclaimed Christ as the truth they’d sought in substances and spiritual philosophy.

Listen to our podcast: We talk to ‘Jesus Revolution’ filmmaker Brent McCorkle

A cinematic retelling of the book co-authored by Laurie, the movie emphasizes themes of acceptance and love, encouraging Christians to reach across the aisle to welcome people who both outwardly look different while internally having a different worldview. 

With a tagline espousing, “When you open your heart, there’s room for everyone,” the film follows Laurie (played by Joel Courtney) as he avoids an unstable home life by seeking “truth” — first in drugs and later in his newfound faith at Calvary Chapel in Costa Mesa, Calif., under the guidance of Smith and Frisbee. 

Relying heavily on pathos, viewers are likely to feel moved by the end of the two-hour film — but may find themselves disappointed when learning the reality of Smith and Frisbee’s stories later. For a film that preaches “truth,” it is disappointing that the plot ends up raising more questions about the reality of the Jesus movement than it answers. 

Certain conflicts are alluded to — power struggles between Smith and Frisbee, marital issues between Frisbee and his wife, disgruntled church leadership at Calvary Chapel — without fully addressing the facts or outcome. 

The poster for the film “Jesus Revolution.”

The poster for the film “Jesus Revolution.”

Rather than engaging with topics that are equally prevalent in the religious environment of today, the producers chose to skirt around these themes, watering down what might have been a compelling example of the challenges and struggles faced by religious leadership.

Instead the movie focuses on the positive drama, which is ultimately resolved in an uplifting way, like Laurie’s ministry and his relationship with his girlfriend, Cathe.

It is an effective public relations piece for Christianity, illustrating the ideal form of faith without addressing the societal criticisms that often follow churches. 

While likely to inspire Christians in need of encouragement, the film sanitizes the complex reality of the movement, shying away from theology and human fallibility to make the overall message more palatable.

To listen to an interview with Brent McCorkle, filmmaker and director of “Jesus Revolution,” tune in to The Christian Chronicle podcast.

AUDREY JACKSON is The Christian Chronicle’s associate editor and a 2021 graduate of Harding University. Contact [email protected].

Filed under: Calvary Chapel Christian film Christian movies Features film review Jesus Movement Jesus Revolution movie review National Opinion Review Reviews Top Stories

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