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At The Movies: ‘Jesus’ take the reel

Jesus freaks.

You may know the term.

Elton John powerfully invoked the nickname in a lyric for his and Bernie Taupin’s song, “Tiny Dancer” (1971): “Jesus freaks/Out in the street/Handing tickets out for God.”

Your ticket for the movie, “Jesus Revolution,” will reveal the genesis of Jesus freaks, also known as Jesus people, part of a religious movement in Southern California that arose during the late 1960s-early 1970s counterculture.

The term “freak,” while not referring to a person with physical differences, such as Joseph Merrick, aka the “Elephant Man,” and those who may have appeared in circus and carnival side shows, entered the lexicon of 1960s’ American pop culture.

At freak-outs, people danced spasmodically to loud rock music, often under the influence of psychedelic light shows and recreational drugs. The underground comic, “The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers,” has kept on truckin’ since 1968 (and as a comic book since 1971). Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention released the record album, ”Freak Out,” in 1966.

The word “freak” has taken on a more benign meaning as a synonym for an enthusiast, as in health freak.

In the movie, ”Jesus Revolution,” there are plenty of Jesus freaks. In 1968, when one, the improbably but actually named Lonnie Frisbee (Jonathan Roumie), appears at the front door of the home of Southern California pastor, Chuck Smith (Kelsey Grammer), eschatological sparks start to fly. Frisbee, a hitchhiker and self-avowed Jesus freak, had been given a ride by Reverend Smith’s daughter, Janette (Ally Ioannides).

Meanwhile, Greg Laurie (Joel Courtney) ditches his high school pre-military training class to run off to a Janis Joplin concert with Cathe (Anna Grace Barlow). The concert includes an LSD proselytizing Timothy Leary.

Greg and Cathe soon eschew drugs and discover a natural high, their love for each other, and as followers of Jesus.

The movie includes flashback scenes of Greg Laurie and his mother, Charlene (Kimberly Williams-Paisley), depicted as having an alcohol-dependency. She lives in a trailer on a bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean. One wouldn’t want that location nowadays.

Attendance is down at Pastor Smith’s church. When the gospel rock band, Love Song (an actual Christian-rock band), performs there, Frisbee and friends pack the pews. Full-immersion water baptisms in the Pacific Ocean follow as do Christian rock concerts outdoors and under a big tent.

A skeptical reporter (Is that redundant?) Josiah (DeVon Franklin) chronicles the transformation of the SoCal church and congregants, mostly long-haired and bare-foot hippies, into a movement, heralded on the cover of the June 21, 1971, Time magazine as “The Jesus Revolution.”

“Jesus Revolution” is not your typical faith-based Christian movie (if there is such a thing anymore). Doubt, jealousy, anger, interpersonal conflict are all on display. The inference is that life and faith carry on even in the most convoluted of circumstances. Humans are not immune from tragedy, nor blessings is the takeaway.

The “Jesus Revolution” screenplay is written by Jon Erwin (director-screenwriter, “American Underdog,” 2021; “I Still Believe,” 2020; “I Can Only Imagine,” 2018; “Steve McQueen: American Icon,” 2017) and Jon Gunn (screenwriter, “American Underdog,” “I Still Believe”) based on the book of the same title written by Greg Laurie (pastor, Harvest Christian Fellowship, the story of which forms the basis for the movie) and Ellen Vaughn.

The movie is co-directed by Erwin and Brent McCorkle (director, screenwriter, ”Unconditional,” 2012).

Erwin and McCorkle capture the charm, joy and immediacy of born-again Christians when first they find their faith.

The co-directors, working with cinematographer Akis Konstantakopoulos, convey the vibe of the then sunny land of Southern California and, collaborating with costume designer Anna Redmon, represent the hippie attire of the era.

Barlow (TV’s “The Big Leap,” 2021) has a brave innocence as Cathe, the girlfriend of Greg Laurie.

Courtney (“Super 8,” 2011) has a similar unassuming openness as Greg Laurie.

Roumie, who plays the role of Jesus on TV’s “The Chosen” 2017-2023, has an edgy charm as a fiery young preacher who resembles western culture depictions of Jesus.

Grammer (four prime-time Emmys, TV’s “FrasIer,” 1993-2004; “Cheers,” 1984-1993) is terrific for his trademark quizzical looks and caustic voice, while harboring a teddy-bear heart.

“Jesus Revolution” will be enjoyed by those who remember the counterculture days and those looking for something more at the cinema and in their lives than the culture wars.

“Jesus Revolution,”

MPAA Rated PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.) for strong drug content involving teens and some thematic elements; Genre: Drama; Run time: 2 hours. Distributed by Lionsgate.

Credit Readers Anonymous:

The “Jesus Revolution” soundtrack has Christian rock songs, including “They Will Know We are Christians by Our Love,” sung by Michael W. Smith; songs by Brent McCorkle, including “The Part Where You Say Yes,” and pop-rock songs of the late 1960s’ - early 1970s,’ including “Listen to the Music” by The Doobie Brothers, “I just Want to Celebrate” by Rare Earth and “War” by Edwin Starr. The movie was filmed in Alabama.

At the Movies:

“Jesus Revolution” was seen in the standard format at AMC Center Valley 16.

“Jesus Revolution,” which is outperforming many theatrical movie releases, is Lionsgate’s highest grossing film since 2019. According to the website, Deadline, the box office for “Jesus Revolution” has matched or bested that for the 2022 Oscar nominees, “The Fabelmans,” “The Banshees Of Inisherin,” “Tár,” “Women Talking” and “Triangle Of Sadness,” combined.

Theatrical Movie Domestic Box Office,

March 17 - 19: “Shazam! Fury of the Gods” had less than comic book superhero numbers, opening with $30.5 million in 4,071 theaters, dropping “Scream VI” from its one-week No. 1 place to No. 2 with $17.5 million in 3,676 theaters, $76 million, two weeks.

3. “Creed III” dropped one place, $15.3 million in 3,477 theaters, $127.6 million, three weeks. 4. “65” dropped one place, $5.8 million in 3,405 theaters, $22.4 million, two weeks. 5. “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania” dropped one place, $4 million in 2,650 theaters, $205.8 million, five weeks. 6. “Cocaine Bear” dropped one place, $3.8 million in 2,687 theaters, $58.4 million, four weeks. 7. “Jesus Revolution” stayed in place, $3.5 million in 2,354 theaters, $45.5 million, four weeks. 8. “Champions” dropped two places, $3 million in 3,039 theaters, $10.5 million, two weeks. 9. “Avatar: The Way of Water” dropped one place, $1.9 million in 1,190 theaters, $678.1 million, 14 weeks. 10. “Puss in Boots: The Last Wish” dropped one place, $1.5 million in 1,735 theaters, $182.5 million, 13 weeks.

11. “Everything Everywhere All at Once” got an Oscar bump from its seven Oscar wins, moving up two places, $1.2 million in 1,633 theaters (an increase of 1,049 theaters), $75.5 million, 52 weeks. 16. “The Whale” moved up 10 places on the basis of its two Oscar wins, $145,230 in 509 theaters (an increase of 403 theaters), $17.2 million, 15 weeks.

Movie box office information from Box Office Mojo as of March 19 is subject to change.


March 24:

“John Wick: Chapter 4,”

R: Chad Stahelski directs Keanu Reeves, Donnie Yen, Bill Skarsgard, Lawrence Fishburn, Hiroyuki Sanada, Rina Sawayama in the Action, Crime, Thriller. John Wick is still trying to earn his freedom.

“A Good Person,”

R: Zach Braff directs Florence Pugh and Morgan Freeman, Celeste O’Connor and Molly Shannon in the drama. A fatal crash has fatal consequences.

Movie box office information from Internet Movie Database as of March 19 is subject to change.

Three Popcorn Boxes out of Five Popcorn Boxes

CONTRIBUTED PHOTO BY LIONSGATE Jonathan Roumie (Lonnie Frisbee), Kelsey Grammer (Chuck Smith), “Jesus Revolution.”