Last night, my wife, Donna, and I, attended the premiere of The Resurrection of Gavin Stone, a new movie that brought together the strange bedfellows of Vertical Church Films and World Wrestling Entertainment, the well-known wrestling company. The movie is the latest in a line of Christian films marketed towards a faith-based audience.
Of course, such films draw the scorn of many. However, I'm not actually in that camp. I consistently seek to encourage the development of such films and think it's healthy for churches to be engaged in filmmaking.
First, let me share about the movie itself.
I was glad to see that it doesn't take itself or its Christian subject too seriously. One of the things you'll notice that is different from some Christian films is that most of the jokes are actually on us.
In other words, the quirks of Christianity are intentionally highlighted instead of scorned and mocked, and they come across as quite funny (one of my favorite lines involves the reference to “my father”). It was one of the few Christian films where people in the theater were consistently laughing, including Donna and me.
In this case, both the insider jokes (which I think Christians will enjoy) and the jokes directed at Christians are done in a good-natured way that creates an atmosphere that welcomes all people in.
Second, the storyline is familiar—you probably won’t be surprised how things resolve, though you should still have fun getting there. As the Hollywood Reporter explained, “This genial religious-themed dramedy is refreshingly lacking in preachiness.”
For what it’s worth, there are several familiar subplots, including some relationship issues between father and son (think, for example, of Field of Dreams). And, in addition, there’s a budding romance, etc.
So, it’s certainly formulaic to a degree, like most redemption-centered movies are, but it’s done pretty well here.
Of course, the movie is decidedly faith-based, which I imagine will turn some reviewers off. However, the Chicago Tribune review is surprisingly friendly towards the film, talking about some of its new ideas and approaches the team implemented.
What makes “The Resurrection of Gavin Stone” singular is its fresh and thoroughly modern approach to evangelical Christianity. It's a sunny, positive portrayal that skirts any of the negative issues that could be associated with the religion, positioning it as a welcoming, forgiving community for anyone and everyone.
I found the same thing.
The acting was much stronger than many Christian films. Simply put, it was at the level we've come to expect in mainstream films, and that was refreshing.
At the start of the premiere, the filmmaker, Dallas Jenkins, indicated that most Christian films try to get churchgoers to go to the movies on the weekend. However, his desire was that this film would actually help moviegoers go to church on Sunday. I think it has that potential: if Christians bring some friends to this film, they would see a positive message that might attract them to church.
Admittedly, it's odd to find a church portrayed in a normal, non-snarky manner. But this film does so in a way that will allow non-Christians to begin to see that churches just might have loving and caring people within their walls. Sure, we are a bit goofy and quirky (and at times socially awkward or over-the-top theologically), but at our core, we are just like everyone else.
The theme of the film (“this is what we do”) keeps coming back throughout the film, and is tied into a sermon series which James McDonald had preached, and I had the privilege of attending, a few weeks ago.
At the end of the day, the theme of forgiveness and redemption emerges clearly, perhaps in ways that we might expect of a Christian film, but also in ways that are genuinely moving and illustrated by imperfect people.
I left reminded that showing grace is ultimately what we must be known for— that “this is what we do.” I think you will be as well.