Friday, September 5, 2014

Jesus People: The Movie (2009)

IMDb plot summary: When Pastor Jerry gets some troubling news, he sets out to create a contemporary Christian pop group that will reach his son - before his teenager dies and goes to hell.
Directed by Jason Naumann. Starring Joel McCrary, Edi Patterson, Damon Pfaff, Richard Pierre-Louis, and Lindsay Stidham.

Guys... this may be the best Christian movie I've ever seen.

Well, excluding blockbuster epics like The Prince of Egypt which a lot of Christians don't count as "real" Christian movies anyway. This is infinitely better than awfulness like God's Not Dead or sloppy movies with good intentions like Courageous. This one nailed the more amusing aspects of churchspeak, but it was done snarkily enough that I wondered if it was really a Christian movie (a little sad that if a movie's good I assume it can't be Christian but not surprising given the track record). But, nope, the writers and director are all Christian, and it shows in a positive way. I fully expect this movie to sit better with Christians than non-Christians -- not because of preachiness, but because it's somewhat in-jokey. Half of the humor was recognizing people I know in these characters. In a move that's beautifully appropriate for a movie that's clearly made for Christians rather than for others, it doesn't feel the need to squeeze in an awkward or unrealistic salvation sequence. If it has a message at all, it's a quiet, subtle one about integrity and not compromising your ideals.

I also really appreciate how despite the characters clearly being parodies, there's a surprising amount of truth and depth to who they are, and the movie never truly ridicules them. From the ditzy nonbeliever who doesn't really understand this Jesus stuff but wants to get along with everyone, to the super adamant everything-is-black-and-white college preacher kid, to the oblivious but sweet pastor, the movie never really mocks any of them. While I'm sure I would have enjoyed a leetle more bite, I did enjoy the kindness with which this movie treats its characters.

Now, it's far from perfect. There are moments when the movie wanders, the fact that there's a nonChristian chilling in a Christian band is never really addressed, and there's a major plotline that is wrapped up sloppily and awkwardly at the end. But as a whole, this is so far beyond any of the recent slew of Christian movies that it EASILY gets a pass from me. And anyone who's been involved in any kind of Christian arts group may enjoy it as much as I did.

Flickchart: #379 out of 2222, below Gravity and above Beautiful Boy.

4 stars.

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