The Resurrection of Gavin Stone is an inspirational comedy rated PG about faith and forgiveness. Gavin Stone, a washed-up former child star is forced to do community service at a local mega- church and pretends to be Christian so he can land the part of Jesus in their annual Passion Play only to discover that the most important role of his life is far from Hollywood.
First of all, I don’t often review films that appear in the traditional cinema, but this is one I was happy to review for two simple reasons. It is a limited release film, so it is possible you may not even be able to see it where you are (it’s not playing anywhere too near me). But, secondly, and most importantly, this is a faith-based film. I’ll mention more in my review about this, but I am disclosing that it is Christian, but it is not sappy–at least not too much. The best description I can give is think Hallmark movie fused with a message of faith. At first, I wasn’t certain what I was going to think of it, but I definitely recommend it for family viewing. Futhermore, this film differs from many Christian films because it is actually a comedy. All too often, faith-based films are dramas with heart-wrenching stories. That is not a bad thing per se, but lighter films can be a nice respite. In this case, this is a comedy that even helps devout Christians (like me) laugh at themselves.
More than likely, you may recognize a few names in this film. I did not recognize Brett Dalton who plays Gavin Stone himself (but I think he would be a perfect addition to Hallmark–I was impressed with him, but more about him later), but the actor portraying his skeptical father is Neil Flynn, who has had quite a career, most notably on The Middle. Watching him immerse himself in this role was like watching a master acting class. His considerable experience stands out, but he makes it all look entirely effortless. Even in scenes with less experienced actors, Neil is able to cast his aura upon this intriguing role of the father who was never really “there” for Gavin as he was growing up. But Waylon Stone knows his boy all too well, and if Gavin truly is playing the church game as his father suspects, he will confront him about his suspicions, even if he is not much better than an agnostic himself.
As a special treat, wrestler Shawn Michaels plays ex-con Doug. I’m not a wrestling fan (sorry), but this part was just a blast! Doug is the typical tough guy, and he can be macho while being a Christian at the same time. I adore the fact that this character appears in this film. He relates to poor Gavin on many levels because after all, Gavin is only there to do his community service hours. But there is no doubt that Doug has been changed by the gospel of Christ, and he only hopes that Gavin has, too.
Since most of the story happens at a church, a pastor is requisite to the tale, right? And D.B. Sweeney is just the man to portray the uncompromising, but kind man of faith, Pastor Allen Richardson. While I am unfamiliar with his work heretofore, D.B. strikes the perfect balance of simple faith and soft-spoken truth. He is benevolent and trusting with Gavin from the beginning, and he never questions much of anything until Gavin shows some interest in his daughter. D.B. is the typical, mysterious man of the cloth. You can’t help but wonder what the story is behind the man who leads this church that appears to be alive and thriving. His preaching is never too laced with fire and brimstone to be ultra offensive, but he will make you think. And from the beginning, that is exactly what he does with Gavin Stone. His faith is genuine and rock solid no matter the circumstances around him.
As the enchanting daughter of Pastor Richardson, Anjelah Johnson-Reyes is purely captivating. I don’t know anything else in which she has appeared, but she hit the mark in every way as the single-focused, uncompromising Kelly who does all in her power to teach Gavin what the true meaning of being a Christian is. There are times her character does appear to be “holier than thou,” and I believe this characteristic will resonate with all Christians who have struggled not to become proud nor rude. Her father continues to counsel her to open her eyes to Gavin and not to get upset when everything does not go as she thinks it should. She is one of those overly-involved church people who has made it clear that she is not interested in a relationship with any man, but there is something about Gavin, and seeing Kelly’s vulnerability causes her to be even more radiant and genuine. I adore how Anjelah portrays this role, and at times, I may have seen myself (I have directed many a church production, and I know how arduous it can be). Although Kelly is as wholesome as can be, it’s refreshing to see the interactions and chaste chemistry between Gavin and her. I may have to investigate Anjelah’s other works as she is enchanting.
But since Gavin Stone is the central character to this story, without the amazing acting of Brett in this role, this movie would have fallen flat. I suppose I connected with Gavin immediately because of what I do for living/hobby. I interview actors, and when appropriate, I do discuss spiritual things with them. I have been honored to have actors open up to me in that fashion on occasion. But Gavin is the total antithesis of the actors I typically feature on my site. From the beginning, he is the arrogant, know-it-all, “God’s gift to womankind” sort of guy, even though he is a washed-up actor. He is forced to return to his roots and do his community service in his hometown. Furthermore, he is compelled to do cleaning work at the church, until he gets this brilliant idea.
He can be an actor in the church production of the life of Jesus Christ. Yes, indeed, with his experience, he’s doing those ingenues a service. He will play Jesus, and no more cleaning carpets and toilets for him! There’s just one problem. All members of the production need to be Christians. And so Gavin becomes the master actor and plays the role of his life.
Over the course of the rehearsals, he turns on the charm with the pastor’s daughter. He connects with a couple other men (Doug is one of them), and in the end, he has a choice to make that before this experience would have been an easy one to make. I don’t want to spoil the story, but he has some soul searching to do, and his portrayal of Christ, though briefly seen within the film, is like nothing else you will probably see in a church production.
It behooves the viewer to remember that this is a Christian film, and more than likely it will only appeal to Christians or seekers. And there is not one thing wrong with that outlook or purpose. The story is cute, funny, and thought-provoking at times. More than likely, there will be someone with whom you can bond and/or relate. And maybe if you tell your friends that Shawn Michaels or Neil Flynn is in it, they will accompany you to the theater for that reason.
I appreciate the fact that the gospel is interwoven into the framework of the story. There is nothing that bothers me more in a Christian film (or book) than for the action to stop and some paltry attempt at the gospel message be inserted in an awkward way. But this movie never does this. I found myself crying towards the end of the film because the message hit home. I have many actor friends, and I pray that they will find the faith that I have found in Him. But all I can do now is exactly what everyone in the movie did who interacted with Gavin.
Some might call the conclusion cheesy. That term always bothers me when applied to films like this or even Hallmark films that have similar storylines. While parts of the film might appear unrealitic, for ninety minutes, you can watch the film with your family, have a few laughs at clean jokes and situational humor, savor a sweet romance, and ultimately hope that Gavin will make the right decision. You can probably guess the predictable ending, but I still say it’s worth your time and money. As I explained to my mother, it’s not Academy-Award-worthy, but I don’t care. I want to get the word out about this film and support is as much as I can so that Hollywood will understand that the faith community wants more films like this.
I salute everyone involved with the film because there truly wasn’t a boring moment nor a moment when I thought, “That actor is horrible.” Some of the actors have less experience, but it doesn’t mean that they can’t act. If you are interested in learning more about this film, check out the links below. It opens (limited release) Friday, January 20. Here’s hoping you will go see it!
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