Here are three descriptors for a movie that you thought you’d never see placed together: “faith-based,” “comedy” and “produced by WWE Studios.”
Somehow, “The Resurrection of Gavin Stone” fits all three. It’s the story of a hard-partying former child star, Gavin Stone (Brett Dalton), who finds redemption at a church in his small hometown. He initially shows up to perform some court-mandated community service, and he sticks around to participate in a church play, playing Jesus Christ. Getting into character rubs off on him.
Christian-themed cinema has been evolving, with higher quality, more mainstream projects, but many have stuck to remarkable true stories or Biblical adaptations. That’s why “The Resurrection of Gavin Stone,” directed by Dallas Jenkins, will be a breath of fresh air for Christian audiences — it represents what modern Christian life actually looks like, with a sense of irreverence and a knowing point of view.
Anjelah Johnson-Reyes plays the pastor’s daughter, the director of the play. She’s kept on a short leash as the uptight Kelly, an immovable force on whom Gavin attempts to use his charm. Though Johnson-Reyes sports comedy bona fides on her résumé, her character is overly tame, bringing the tone way down.
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The WWE connection comes in the presence of Hall of Famer Shawn Michaels, also known as The Heartbreak Kid, whose role as churchgoing tough guy Doug will no doubt draw some wrestling fans to the film.
As for the comic element: Technically it’s a comedy, but laugh-out-loud this is not. It’s an achievement for this genre, as it’s much lighter than most faith-based films, and it isn’t afraid to poke fun at cultural stereotypes. Gavin’s Los Angeles lifestyle, including predilections for yoga or anything organic, is played for laughs.
“The Resurrection of Gavin Stone” isn’t pushy with its message. The characters espouse an ethos of leading by example, offering the space and their own grace, letting Gavin discover his faith himself. There’s an agenda, but it’s framed as a personal, individual journey.
What makes “The Resurrection of Gavin Stone” singular is its fresh and modern approach to evangelical Christianity. It’s a positive portrayal, positioning it as a welcoming, forgiving community for anyone and everyone. It’s a portrayal we haven’t often seen before and marks a new direction for films targeted at that audience. It may even draw a new believer or two, but there’s still a long way to go to nail the faith-based comedy genre.
“The Resurrection of Gavin Stone”
Rated PG for thematic elements including a crucifixion image. 1:32. Frankfort, Georgetown, Hamburg, Nicholasville, Richmond, Winchester.