Ah. A Christian film. Well, if you can’t go a year without a Nicholas Sparks movie, we sure can’t go a year without a Christian film either. Well, let’s get on with it.
Before I get started on my initial impressions, I’ll be brief and talk about my history with religion. I was raised to be Catholic. Kinda weird because we never really practiced it other than going to church every Sunday for much of my childhood. But we stopped going around my teen years, I believe. Which suited me just fine because church was boring. Sitting around for hours on end listening to some middle-aged dude talk about his morning and how it somehow relates to God, only for the big payoff to be powdered doughnuts after. Don’t get me wrong, I love doughnuts, but… damn, not quite worth it. I’ve gone a bit all over the place with how I feel about God. I’ve been a believer, I’ve been an Athiest, I’ve been anti-God, pro religion, anti-religion. But more or less, since becoming an adult with some worldly experiences under my belt, I say there’s nothing wrong with religion, there’s nothing wrong with believing in God, I think it’s a crutch and an excuse to be a good person sometimes, but I have both religious friends and family, and I would never think less of them for their beliefs. I myself am closer to an Agnostic, I am unaffected over whether or not there is a God, but I will always be respectful of those who are believers, so long as they are respectful of my outlook.
So when movies are made to beat you over the head with religion, it does two things: One, it makes good and sensible religious folks look bad, and two, it hurts my head from all the face-palms I do. Like… this one.
I feel like I can already figure this movie out. This looks like a story about a former child actor who’s hit some rough times. Getting arrested, he must carry out his community service in a church that is about to put on a play that he wants to be a part of. They don’t let him at first, and the he lies and says that he’s a true believer of God and then the let him in. Along the way, he’ll learn about what it means to have faith and be a good person and… yeah, seen it.
Well, let’s take a look at the cast. Starring as the titular character is Brett Dalton, known for TV shows AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D., ROBOT CHICKEN, and BLUE BLOODS. Also, we have Anjelah Johnson-Reyes, known for THE BOOK OF LIFE (2014), ENOUGH SAID (2013), and ALVIN AND THE CHIPMUNKS (2009). Finally is Neil Flynn, known for TV shows THE MIDDLE, VIXEN, and SCRUBS.
Now for behind the scenes. Directing is Dallas Jenkins, known for ONCE WE WERE SLAVES (2014), THE RIDE (2012), and WHAT IF… (2010). Penning the screenplay is Andrea Gyertson Nasfell, known for MOM’S NIGHT OUT (2014), SILVER BELLS (2013), and WHAT IF… Ah, so a reunion of sorts.
To be fair, I can guess this movie because I jumped ahead and saw a couple of reviews and know how it ends. All that’s left is to throw in my two cents. I don’t think I’ll hate this movie, but religious films have a tendency to ride up on my nerves. We’ll see…
This is my honest opinion of: THE RESURRECTION OF GAVIN STONE
Gavin Stone (Brett Dalton) was once a child star on a hit TV show that made him a household name. However, after suffering the death of his mother, he had begun to make bad choices that’s landed him in rehab a few times and his latest antics got him arrested. He’s sentenced to community service in a megachurch in his hometown doing maintenance work. But as soon as he hears that the church is putting together a play about Jesus Christ, he wants in on it. However, the church will only let believers play, to which Gavin lies and says that he is. Successfully landing the part, he begins to make friends and even starts falling for the stage manager, Kelly (Anjelah Johnson-Reyes), who is incredibly skeptical of Gavin. But the more time he spends with these people, the more he gets taken in by their sense of community, their humbleness, and other acts that he subtly begins to learn himself.
So… I like this movie. Wasn’t expecting that.
As you can guess, there’s a whole plethora of Christian movies out there that feature a story that basically says, “If you don’t believe, then you’re a bad person” or make it so that faith is the answer to everything, even the implausible. Because, yeah, that’s how life works. Pray and all your troubles go away. This movie is surprisingly grounded and level-minded. I never got the sense that this movie was beating you upside the head with its own beliefs and was just showing you good Christian people being good Christian people. That’s remarkably refreshing.
The movie even plays with certain expectation. Even though the Pastor knows why Gavin is in the church, Kelly is completely in the dark and Gavin doesn’t tell her anything at first. I kept thinking that this would result in a liar-reveal scene, where she would discover he isn’t what he said is, he would feel bad for lying, she’d mope in anger and hurt, and get back together in the climax. You know, that bullshit story that you’ve seen a thousand times. But actually, she finds out about his arrest pretty early on. Now… I don’t want to say that there isn’t a liar-reveal scene at some point, and I’ll get to that later, but these are thankfully not the focus.
But at the center of the movie is Dalton, as Gavin Stone, whom is not an unlikable character and I feel like it would have been too easy to make him that way. But no, the story keeps him focused. He makes bad decisions, but he’s not a bad guy. Even when he lies, you can kind of understand why. He’s an actor and he wants to act rather than clean bathrooms. Selfish, sure, but the movie never claims that Gavin is any saint. That’s his character arch. He even manages to set aside his desires to flirt with Kelly in order to help his fellow castmates to improve their acting. There’s even a cutsie scene with him signing to a deaf girl, which I really liked. Dalton brings so much charm and likability to the character, loaded with some solid comedy and heart.
Kelly, for as devoted to Jesus as she is, isn’t very preachy, if at all really. Once again, it keeps it within focus that her faith is hers and how it affects her. At no point does she really tell Gavin to give himself to the Lord or anything like that. She only reminds him of the reasons why they put on these plays to begin with. She’s very likable and an amusing comic foil to Gavin and is no slacker in the “charm” department either. I liked her.
While most of the supporting cast is pretty forgettable, the two that stand out the most for me are Gavin’s father, Waylon (Flynn) and Pastor Richardson (D.B. Sweeney). Waylon is a man, clearly sorting out his own feelings, both regarding his deceased wife and of Gavin’s choices. He’s certainly tired of Gavin’s antics, but he clearly loves his son and wants him to do better in life. Despite Flynn’s comedy background, he delivers a very heart-felt performance. And while Sweeney’s role is limited to simply to spouting wisdom to characters in need of it, he also delivered an earnest performance. I don’t know why he stuck out so much, but there’s something about his voice, the way he delivers his lines, the way he looks at everyone, you just get hypnotized and want to listen to him.
Now before anyone thinks that I’m gushing and will say nothing but good things, think again. I do have my problems with the story.
I guess I should talk about the clichés and predictabilities that unfortunately were woven into the story. In place of a true liar-reveal scene, we do get something similar and just as painful. It’s a couple days before opening night for the play and Gavin gets a phone call from a film director who wants him to be a part of the TV show he’s making. It’s going to be huge and Gavin decides he can’t pass it up and has to leave immediately. You know exactly what’s going to happen, and he takes the gig. Kelly gets mad at him, Gavin is mad that he made this choice, he even blames his dad for something stupid, but he eventually goes back to the play to finish it up, apologizing to everyone who, of course, forgive him, even Kelly. But even this cliché is done in a semi-refreshing way that I haven’t seen another movie do in recent memory. He goes on set and tries to film the show, but the level of disrespect that’s shown toward him is enough for him to walk out on it and that’s what prompts him to return to the play. There’s real motivation for his return that even Disney’s MOANA (2016) didn’t capture. So… yeah, not the biggest blow to the movie, but the fact that they went this route, it is still a blow to story.
My biggest problem is during the play itself. Gavin has this off script moment where he, apparently, believes. Something he even announces to Kelly. Wouldn’t it be a little more meaningful to have Gavin continue not being a believer, but hold true to his earlier statement that while he doesn’t believe in God or anything, he likes what it means to his friends? I like what religion does for my friends who are believers, but that doesn’t make me one. Religion isn’t for me. Maybe it would have been fine if Gavin had a side-kick character who converted himself, but that’s not the case and becomes such a cop-out for Gavin’s character. This is the only moment in the entire movie that felt like it was preaching something. Granted, it’s only one line, and it isn’t dwelled upon for longer than a couple seconds, but the fact that the story went there is a little frustrating.
While not a perfect Christian movie, it does more than enough right to have made it worth my time. The leads are great, some of the supporting cast is good, the impressive amount of restraint this movie had from cramming religious beliefs down the audiences’ throat, all topped off with some witty comedy make this a pretty well-done movie. I would recommend this movie to anyone looking for a refreshing take on religious films, being far more grounded and considerate, for the most part. There’s enough charm and talent to make it worthwhile. But if you can’t stand the concept of a religious film, then I doubt it’ll change your mind. Only if you’re open and curious do I recommend this. I think it’s worth checking out, though.
My honest rating for THE RESURRECTION OF GAVIN STONE: 4/5