Friday, April 28, 2017

Brett Dalton Elevates 'The Resurrection of Gavin Stone' Above Other Cliched Christian Movies

Despite being a Christian, I’m no fan of modern Christian movies (in fact, it can be said that it’s probably because I’m a Christian that I’m no fan of modern Christian movies).  Hence, I don’t usually seek out this kind of movies.  I just know I couldn’t really like them (there are a few of them that I did find okay, despite being very problematic).  I couldn’t even proceed to enjoy them in a “so bad, it’s good” way, for it attempts to introduce profound Christian propositional truths (something essentially important to me) through effective art and storytelling (something I also care about) but failing miserably.  I can’t help but cringe and lament when this happens.

Still, I somehow went to seek and see The Resurrection of Gavin Stone.  Despite recognizing the likelihood that it will have the same problems I have with modern Christian movies, I was intrigued of it.  Primarily because it has some interesting casting.

The lead character, Gavin Stone, is played by Brett Dalton – the double-agent Grant Ward from Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. whom I think has been the show’s best villain (which I desperately want to come back as a regular to the series by being a good-guy-version LMD by this current season’s end).  Playing the pastor character is D. B. Sweeney – the star of an obscure, 90’s romantic comedy called The Cutting Edge, a guilty-pleasure movie of mine.  And then there’s the Heartbreak Kid himself Shawn Michaels, one of my most favorite WWE characters, having his big-screen acting debut as one of the Christian trio that became friends with Gavin Stone.  There’s just something delightfully weird by having these three in one movie – and a Christian movie at that!
The Resurrection of Gavin Stone is a comedy that revolves around former child star Gavin Stone (Dalton), who (like many real-life child stars) is a washed-up, bankrupt mess of an adult after growing up spoiled with celebrity status and instant gratifications.  After his latest party debacle, he’s sentenced to do community service for a church in his hometown.  Incidentally, the church is currently developing a “Life of Jesus” play for Easter.  Preferring to spend his community service hours on stage rather than cleaning bathrooms, Stone finds himself pretending to be a Christian in order to be cast as Jesus Christ.

The movie is transparently formulaic.  The narrative predictably goes to the direction you would expect a typical Christian-conversion plot would go.  The humor is exactly what you would expect from a “pretending to be a Christian” setup.  It can be argued that the drama is organic, even essential, to the storyline, but the tugging-your-heartstrings effect it tries to elicit is rather forced as it’s brought about by a platitudinous plot point.
But this movie also has some winning, quirky feel.  The clichéd script is nearly compensated by the charming execution and presence of Brett Dalton.  There’s a sort of “meta” appeal to it.  Just as Gavin Stone helps elevate the production of the play and its inept actors, Dalton does the same for the movie and his co-cast members.

In the end, The Resurrection of Gavin Stone is one of the better made Christian movies I’ve seen.  It’s still problematic, and you would not expect it to be universally well-liked.  But it at least has a sense of competence in its production, is reasonably enjoyable, and satisfyingly harmless – even if not exactly commendable – in depicting its theological message.

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