By Jerica Rice
On Monday, January 8, 2017, the first day back from winter break, the University of Northwestern St. Paul and Bethel University co-hosted a screening of the new movie “The Resurrection of Gavin Stone” directed by University of Northwestern – St. Paul graduate Dallas Jenkins. The movie opened on 1000 screens, including AMC Roseville on January 20, 2017.
The Resurrection of Gavin Stone is about a washed-up actor named Gavin that gets into trouble with the law in his hometown and ends up doing community service as a maintenance worker for a local megachurch. However, he finds out that he can work off his time portraying Jesus in their Passion play, rather than cleaning bathrooms, if he is able to convince the Pastor and the director that he is a Christian.
Before the movie was shown, Dallas Jenkins, the director, said a few words about the movie and the purpose for which it was made. “The goal of the movie is to make people want to go to church” said Jenkins. Jenkins wanted to show what church looks like through the eyes of an outsider to help churches see what they could do better in order to more effectively reach out to non-believers; he suggested that this movie could be a good resource from which to draw ideas about getting people to feel welcome in church.
Jenkins wanted the church in this movie to set an example and resemble his own church. He wanted it to be a place that “… welcomes without judgement, loves without condition, and forgives without limit.” He said, “Hopefully this church becomes of microcosm for what the church in America could be.”
A secondary purpose in making this movie was to break away from the stereotype that faith-based movies have for being cheesy and of poor quality. “Something you don’t see a lot is a faith based movie that’s funny … especially intentionally funny,” said Jenkins. There were a few moments in the opening scenes of the movie that made me afraid it might slip into the cheesy predictable style of low-budget Christian films. The film exceeded expectations and went far above and beyond other movies in the faith-based genre, just as Jenkin’s promised that it would.
One quality that sets this movie apart is that the film does a great job at pointing out, through the use of comedy, the habits of Christians that non-Christians can find confusing and off-putting. When Jenkins was pitched the idea for a movie where an outsider pretends to be a Christian, he said, “I immediately saw the potential humor in him trying to speak Christianese.” This idea manifested itself throughout the film via satirical use of overused Christian words and ideas like calling a pastor’s daughter a PK, saying that you’re “sold out for Jesus”, or turning down a date by saying “I only have room for one man in my life and that’s Jesus.” I think that having someone who is trying to act like a Christian change his language before he changed his actions was one extremely effective way that this movie points out the flaws in church-goers today.
Also, unlike most recent faithbased movies, this film actually has believable character development. A lot of the time in Christian movies, characters are put into rare and dramatic circumstances and end up changing their mind about God with little to no support for their sudden change of heart. The writers and director of this movie do a great job at developing the characters in a way that is true to life.
A movie with complex characters needs well-trained actors to play said characters and the casting was another aspect of this movie that brought it to another level. It was refreshing to actually see some familiar faces acting in a faith-based movie. The main character Gavin Stone is played by Brett Dalton who is famous for playing Grant Ward on “Agents of Shield”. According to Jenkins, “He got the script [for the movie]and read it on the set of “Agents of Shield” and he missed lunch because he was so engrossed in it. He told me that he just loved it and it felt very personal to him.”
Gavin’s father is played by Neil Flynn who was made famous for his work as the Janitor on Scrubs and the TV show “The Middle.” The main female role is played by famous standup comedian Anjelah Johnson-Reyes, famous for her comedic character Bon Qui Qui. Also Shawn Michaels, the WWE wrestler, has a role in the film. Another interesting fact about the casting is that not all of the actors were Christians. “We not only don’t mind working with non-Christians, we actually love it,” said Jenkins. “For actors in Hollywood, to get a chance to work in a Christian environment is almost unheard of.” The Hollywood actors working on this movie got a chance to hear the gospel and see the love of Christ in the Christian people working onsite.
“The Resurrection of Gavin Stone” opened on January 20th on 1000 movie screens and there is no set end date. “It stays as long as people buy tickets,” Jenkins said. “I’ve had movies last for three months in a theater and I’ve had some last four days. If you want it to stay in the theater longer, then buy tickets.”