At the heart of the film is a story of a man looking for a second (or third, or maybe even fourth) chance. Gavin Stone (Marvel’s Agents of Shield Brett Dalton) is a former child actor who had a hit show in the past but today is known more for his wild, bad-boy ways. One wild romp finds him arrested, fined, and sentenced to 200 community service hours. The kicker is that he has to serve out his sentence at a local church in his hometown. He starts out mopping the bathrooms and soon finds the church starting to put together a Passion project for Easter. Gavin cannot deny the innate draw the stage has on him, and he works it out with the pastor and the pastor’s daughter Kelley (Anjelah Johnson-Reyes) to fulfill his sentence by helping them with their production. The catch, though, is that he lies about being a Christian to gain their trust. And his role in the production? Jesus, of course.
The story rolls along as Gavin struggles with portraying this man, Jesus, changing his approach little by little the more he finds out about the Rabbi who changed the world. As he pours himself into the role, he finds himself questioning his own worldview and the relationships around him. His strained relationship with his dad begins to change and mend bit by bit. A romance blossoms between Gavin and Kelley, but not one that Gavin is used to. And Gavin forms bonds with three cast mates, which transform how he looks at the church and what’s most important in life.
Brett Dalton is engaging and likeable in the role of Gavin. He is believable as a cocky celebrity navigating unfamiliar territory, and as one who is humbled by the experience. He feels natural and approachable in the role, and he even offers some true heart in one key scene portraying Jesus forgiving the woman caught in adultery.
D.B. Sweeney is solid but isn’t in the film enough to really offer much of his veteran expertise as support.
Anjelah Johnson-Reyes makes her acting debut as Kelley and holds her own against Dalton’s Gavin. While she appears a bit stiff (including the ever-raised eyebrows—were they frozen?) at the beginning of the film, she becomes more comfortable in the role and offers a realistic portrayal of a strong Christian woman who isn’t doe-eyed and waiting on Gavin to make her swoon. There are glimpses of a strong talent here that will no doubt develop more in future roles.
Neil Flynn plays Gavin’s cantankerous father well but, like D.B. Sweeney, there aren’t many scenes to flesh out the character in depth. He does add some emotional foil to Gavin’s struggles and backstory, and their scenes together are some of the best.
WWE superstar Shawn Michaels makes his acting debut as well and does a solid, low-key job. The comedic nature of some of his scenes feels a bit forced, but overall the scenes are still enjoyable. His character is key in helping Gavin see the truth of what being a Christian is all about, even if he doesn’t offer big, memorable lines.
The rest of the cast offers some comedic punch, though the jokes feel sparse and smile-worthy rather than laugh-out-loud hilarious.
The Resurrection of Gavin Stone succeeds in its goal to appeal to a wide audience. There aren’t any attacks on worldviews outside of the Christian faith, nor are there any mean-spirited attacks on the church. There is a balance in representing how someone outside of the church views Christianity, as well as a respectful, true representation of the church itself.
However, it feels like the film held too much back. For a comedy, the jokes weren’t really there. There were moments that will make you smile, but none that will make you laugh. The acting is solid but nothing note-worthy or extraordinary. The script was well-written but didn’t bring anything original to the game.
It’s a great movie to watch at home, but is it worth the money at the theater?
Dallas Jenkins shows skill in storytelling in The Resurrection of Gavin Stone, and making a movie that is enjoyable, but this feels reserved—a little too safe. The script could have used an extra helping of emotional and comedic oomph, which would have taken this from a watch-from-your-couch film to a movie theater must-see. It’s a great example of how faith-based films can be quality made, but it needed to push just a bit harder to make it memorable.