Jesus Revolution (2023) is a movie based on the book of the same name by Greg Laurie (pastor of Harvest Christian Fellowship in Orange County, California), which is a semi-autobiographical account about Laurie's own upbringing and the Jesus Movement in the early 1970s in Southern California. Its directors are Jon Erwin and Brent McCorkle. It has a PG-13 rating due to numerous scenes showing alcohol, tobacco, and drug use.
This movie opened with higher-than-expected box office revenues: $14.5M. The movie overcame mixed reviews by liberal critics, and by March 5 had surpassed $30 million at the box office. By mid-March this movie garnered $40 million domestically, which broke the record for its producer, Lionsgate that previously did non-religious movies. As of March 25, 2023, Jesus Revolution approached $50 million in box office revenue worldwide.
This movie received an extraordinary 99% positive review on the Rotten Tomatoes review site, and an A+ on CinemaScore. The CinemaScore A+ rating was Erwin's fourth consecutive such rating, a first in the rating system's history. Yet zero (0) movie awards or even nominations for awards have been granted to this movie by liberal reviewers.
The movie primarily is centered around five main personalities:
- Chuck Smith, pastor of Calvary Chapel, portrayed by actor Kelsey Grammer,
- LoveSong, a hippie band which eventually became one of the founders of "Jesus Music", a forerunner to Contemporary Christian Music (CCM),
- Lonnie Frisbee, an itinerant hippie evangelist, and
- Laurie and his then girlfriend Cathe (nee Martin), neither of whom were Christians growing up, who come to Christ and ultimately begin their ministry together.
It began playing in theaters on February 24, 2023 (general release) with a special screening on Wednesday, February 22, 2023. A special preview was held at Prestonwood Baptist Church on February 19 of that year; Laurie was a guest speaker at the church's Sunday services.
Joshua, a reporter for Time magazine, interviews Greg at Pirate's Cove, an inlet of the Pacific Ocean where many outdoor baptisms had been held over the past year. He asked him about the Jesus Movement which had spread from California across the nation.
The movie then flashes back to the prior year. Greg lived in a run-down trailer with his mother, who routinely abused alcohol and had multiple male partners, and attended a military academy at her request, though he preferred drawing instead. While running across a park overrun by hippies, he is approached by Cathe, who invites him to a festival that weekend where Timothy Leary told the attendees to "turn on, tune in and drop out".
Meanwhile, Chuck Smith is the pastor of Calvary Chapel, a small, struggling congregation. After watching a newscast about the hippie movement, Kay (his wife) says that they need help; Chuck replies "what they need is a bath", which earns him the admonishment of his daughter Janette (who remarks that maybe his attitude is why his church isn't growing). Later Janette picks up a hitchhiker, hippie street preacher Lonnie Frisbee, and brings him home to meet Chuck. Despite their differences the two realize that Calvary Chapel needs to aggressively reach out to the hippie crowd; though a few older members leave, the influx of newer, younger members causes the church to erect a tent to handle the growing crowds. The more traditional music is replaced by a contemporary band, LoveSong.
After both Greg and Cathe see the detrimental effects of the drug-induced lifestyle (Cathe's sister nearly overdoses, while Greg nearly dies when the driver of a van in which he is riding -- who is clearly high on drugs -- nearly causes a wreck), they each come to faith in Christ and are baptized in Pirate's Cove.
Though Calvary Chapel is growing and reaching many hippies, behind the scenes Chuck and Lonnie have differing views on how to handle matters (Lonnie wants to follow the "signs and wonders" of the Charismatic movement, while Chuck wants to continue a more reserved approach); after Chuck asks Lonnie to take over a Bible study in Riverside and Lonnie refuses (claiming that Chuck is trying to push him out of the limelight) the two part ways. Greg takes over the study, which turns out not to be successful.
A combination of events -- Lonnie's announcement that he and his wife are moving to Florida, Greg's mother admitting she left his adoptive dad, and Cathe's father not supporting the relationship -- cause Greg and Cathe to break up. Eventually, they reunite, and Chuck announces that he had purchased a church building which was for sale and wants Greg to start a new congregation in Riverside. Later, Greg baptizes several people who had traveled from Texas to see what was happening.
Joshua returns to New York, and ultimately mails Chuck a copy of the famous Time magazine from 1971 titled "The Jesus Revolution". Janette confesses to Chuck that she was about to abandon Christianity completely, until his change of heart toward hippies. The final clips show what happened in later years to Chuck, Lonnie, LoveSong, and Greg and Cathe.
Differences between the book and movie
As with any movie adaptation, there will be significant differences between the events in the book and the movie. Major ones include:
- Although Calvary Chapel was struggling with Smith took over, by the time he met Lonnie, the church had already grown and built a new facility. However, it was still a primarily Anglo, conservative congregation.
- The movie has Greg and Laurie both in high school at the same time, and together finding faith in Christ. In reality, the two did not meet in high school nor did they come to faith in Christ together; Greg did not meet Cathe until she started attending Calvary Chapel shortly after her own conversion, where Greg was leading Bible study after being led to the Lord by Lonnie.
- The movie portrays Lonnie as unwilling to accept a role teaching a Bible study at a nearby Episcopalian church, believing that Chuck Smith was trying to push him out of the church, whereupon Greg agrees to do it, only to have it fail and Smith not to stand up for him (later giving him the keys to a former Baptist church building as repayment). In reality Lonnie did lead the study for a time before he decided to leave Florida, whereupon Greg took over. The study actually didn't fail; the church (not comfortable with the type of services held) pulled out of support, whereupon the study was relocated to the former Baptist church; eventually growing into Harvest Christian Fellowship.
- The movie portrays Greg's mother as not understanding Greg's new-found faith. In reality, his mother grew up in a Christian home, but rebelled in her teenage years (though near the end of her life, she returned to her childhood faith).
- Notably, the later life of Lonnie is highly sanitized, even in the final clips, which only mention his involvement in the Vineyard Church movement and that he and Smith later reconciled. Nothing is mentioned about his divorce from his wife, his "open secret" involvement in the homosexual lifestyle (though preaching against it), and that his death at age 43 was due to HIV/AIDS.
This movie was seven years in development, and its distributor Lionsgate is not a religious movie production house.
- ↑ https://www.imdb.com/title/tt10098448/
- ↑ https://deadline.com/2023/02/box-office-cocaine-bear-jesus-revolution-ant-man-and-the-wasp-1235269877/
- ↑ https://www.movieguide.org/news-articles/jesus-revolution-hits-new-domestic-box-office-record-for-lionsgate.html
- ↑ https://www.kentuckytoday.com/baptist_life/jesus-revolution-heads-into-second-weekend-after-3rd-place-box-office-opening/article_aad742c4-ba8b-11ed-a87b-932a0a68ff9b.html
- ↑ https://www.foxnews.com/media/kelsey-grammer-overcome-emotion-new-film-best-thing-hes-ever-done
- ↑ https://www.liberty.edu/news/2023/02/03/names-behind-new-jesus-revolution-film-share-stories-about-the-jesus-movement-at-convocation/