In Erwin and McCorkle’s film Jesus Revolution, we view youths in the 1960s who are suddenly inspired to seek out religion after experiencing too many “good times” as hippies.
Quickly, young people who were once outcasts are now a part of the same following as their parents’ generation. Hippies who still wear the same clothes and use the same vernacular but have abandoned drugs and casual sex for Christianity.
The funny thing is, this really did happen. This period from the late ’60s to late ’70s birthed the term “Jesus freak” and the music subgenre Christian rock.
Jesus Revolution is based on Pastor Greg Laurie’s 2018 memoir with the same title about his early life in Newport Beach. Greg here is played by Joel Courtney as we get flashbacks of him growing up with a broken home in between his transition from teenage hippie to committed Evangelical in 1968-69.
Anna Grace Barlow plays Greg’s steady girlfriend/future wife Cathe, who is also a flower child Christian; Kelsey Grammer is open-minded, traditional pastor Chuck Smith; and Jonathan Roumie portrays hippie-friendly pastor Lonnie Frisbee. Both pastors mentor Greg in different ways.
Like with most Christian-based films, Jesus Revolution’s execution is a little too silly to either inspire or offend viewers with its message. The period piece is stacked with cliché after cliché, trope after trope.
It’s also obvious Erwin and co-screenwriter Jon Gunn did not actually live in the ’60s or properly educate themselves on the time frame and culture. A quick online search on the real pastors will also show Jesus Revolution watered down their personal histories as well.
But I will say, two interesting aspects are that we see Lonnie and his wife Connie (Charlie Morgan Patton) take a break after experiencing marital problems, and the former is accused of using his platform for power trips and enjoying his role as a leader more than spreading the faith.
You generally don’t see issues like this included in spiritual features, and there is almost an acknowledgement on the very real issue that many of the hippie communes back then were run by egomaniacal, manipulative men.
Ultimately, Jesus Revolution isn’t the worst religious movie I’ve seen, but it’s also not unique enough to stick with me afterward. For ’60s nostalgia with a good classic rock soundtrack, you might as well stick to Robert Zemeckis’ Forrest Gump (1994), as well as Norman Jewison’s Jesus Christ Superstar (1973) for this Easter season.