As a cinephile who enjoys watching movies and subjecting them to the same sort of critical analysis I give to everything else that comes my way , I found this film to be full of ironies. Here are some of them: A film about a resurrection had the titular character performing a rule that included a representation of a resurrection as well as his own symbolic resurrection into Christian life, thus bringing the subtext to the text. Additionally, a film that showed the strong appeal of Christianity and a rejection of the demented and corrupt Hollywood culture itself had solid production values and a pretty classic three act Hollywood film structure, with a reasonably compact 90 minute run time. Also, this film was produced by WWE Entertainment, best known for its support of the redneck theater known as professional wrestling . Even so, this was a very good film, and I am glad that the trailer I saw for the film while watching other movies this weekend caught my interest and that an e-mail reminder this weekend about receiving some extra Regal points gave me the encouragement I needed to watch it despite having a busy day overall.
This is a movie that is not quite what I expected it to be, but in a way that made it a lot better. The setup is fairly straightforward. The movie begins with a “Where Are They Now” segment that gives the backstory in a way that serves two purposes. First, the segment serves to efficiently introduce the backstory of Gavin Stone’s character, his child stardom, his difficulties in young adulthood, the fact that whatever he may think about his own stardom, he is only paid attention to when screwing up and is not really in the business anymore and is being ignored even by those who used to direct him. In addition to this, the segment also serves to present one of the central conflicts of the movie, the star and his estranged father, with whom there was an acrimonious lawsuit after the death of Gavin’s mother. Indeed, the film itself comes back to the relationship between parents and children several times: Gavin is estranged from his father, who wants to see his son become a better man despite Gavin’s tendency to screw things up, the pastor of the church where Gavin is serving customer service wants to see his daughter happy and become less uptight and more gracious towards others, the performance Gavin is working on is that of Jesus Christ dealing with the reality of death and resurrection on behalf of humanity in service to the plans of His heavenly Father, and at one point Gavin does some volunteer service sight unseen for a single mother struggling with reliable transportation in order to preserve her job. The movie is not heavy handed about this repetition of theme, but noticing it allows the film to have a lot more layers than one would expect.
There is a lot to admire about this film. It has solid production values and a varied and enjoyable soundtrack that includes traditional Christian songs, contemporary Christian material, and even an enjoyable rap song I was humming along to in the theater. The film has some excellent performances from a talented but largely unknown cast including the following main/supporting actors: Brett Dalton, Anjelah Johnson-Reyes, Shawn Michaels, Neil Flynn, D.B. Sweeney, and Tim Frank. The film’s director, Dallas Jenkins, has mostly done shorts but here shows himself a competent director, good at creating a welcoming atmosphere. This is a film that can be watched in an easygoing fashion and that makes few demands on its viewers, and that takes advantage of more than a few tropes and cliches, but at the same time is a film that rewards those who are students of irony, particularly when the protagonist shows off a skill at communicating in ASL with a deaf girl and comments that he had learned it for a Hallmark movie, all the more ironic given the conventional structure of the film with its protagonist returning to his roots to realize that the good life he was missing had been there all along.
Although this is not a particularly groundbreaking film, it is an enjoyable one. The film is to be particularly praised for its strong portrayal of Christians and for providing a group of people who are quirky and likable as being good examples for someone who clearly has struggled to get his life in order. As is its consistent way in all of its elements, this is a film that presents on its surface level a reenactment of the Gospel story of Jesus’ life where grace is shown to the unworthy and where Jesus Christ humbles Himself to serve others, and it shows in its titular protagonist a slow and fumbling and imperfect but eventual progress to that same point where grace is extended and received, and where viewers get a sense that Christians struggle with the same sort of issues that other people do, from struggles with relationships and intimacy and human imperfection as well as the perceived need to keep up an image. This is not a film that is likely to win any awards, but it is an enjoyable film that offers food for thought and is a worthwhile film for its own merits that can likely expect strong business in streaming/rentals and an appreciation from those who enjoy films about redemption and second chances with strong Christian messages but without heavy-handedness in its approach. If that sounds like a good 90 minutes spent, and it is to me, consider this a warm recommendation.
 See, for example:
 See, for example: