Saturday, December 17, 2016

NEW MOVIE REVIEW: THE RESURRECTION OF GAVIN STONE (2017)

GRACE...HUMOR...FELLOWSHIP... AND JESUS TURN A HEARTBREAK KID AROUND
The first brand new Christian movie to be released in 2017 is guaranteed to wash your winter blues away. W.W.E. Studios (yes, THAT W.W.E – World Wrestling Entertainment) produced one of the most humorous and clearly impactful Christian films I have ever seen. The RESURRECTION OF GAVIN STONE (R.O.G.S.) is due to be released nationwide on Friday January 20, 2017 and stars Brett Dalton, as Gavin Stone. Wrestling fans will also recognize HBK – Shawn Michaels, the Heartbreak Kid as one of the main characters in the movie. Shawn is a born-again believer in his real life.

R.O.G.S's swift flowing storyline revolves around the former “child actor” Gavin Stone (TV Actor Brett Dalton, AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. ABC TV etc.) who later became a troubled young adult, typical of Hollywood child actors, who made it too big too fast. Like most actual child actors, he hailed from either the Midwest or the South and Gavin Stone’s hometown was Masonville, Illinois. (By the way, Masonville looked eerily like Mason City, an actual small Central Illinois town, where the main attraction is an actual 1920’s era theater, with authentic era seating, called The Arlee). Those Midwestern values went out the window once Gavin moved to Hollywood to become the great child actor with the catchy phrases, the merchandise and more. That is, until it all went south and like most child actors, Stone ended up on the wrong side of the Law.

To work out his drug addiction rehab, Stone was sentenced to 200 hours of Community Service at the local megachurch, as a janitor. His displeasure at this required responsibility is obvious until he notices that the church's Passion Play is about to get going. His ego causes him to desire the lead role of, you guessed it - Jesus Christ. There is only one problem: the Bible preaching pastor (played by TV/Movie actor D.B. Sweeney) mentions to Stone that the role is only open to someone who is a Christian.  Naturally, the self-absorbed actor suddenly declared that he indeed was a "Christian" and did what any self-professing "Christian" does - he mouthed words about Jesus.

This sudden "conversion" began both a series of humorous incidents throughout the movie, which flowed effortlessly into the well crafted and directed narrative written by  Andrea Gyertson Nasfel. She may not sound familiar but some of the most powerful Christian movies with self-effacing, subtle, clean humor were written by Ms. Nasfel! Her increasingly impressive portfolio include Mom's Night Out; WHAT IF; Christmas with a Capitol C and others.

Without giving away most of the plot, the expert weaving of this holy humor
Angelah Johnson- Reyes,  with Brett Dalton
and complex human relationships, speak to regular people who simply do life! There is notion out there that a Christian has to have a great life of health and wealth and great relationships. This is about 180 degrees out of phase with life where wayward teens walk out on their parents and have rough and tough relationships with them. (For example, Gavin Stone and his movie father, played by former Second City actor Neil Flynn). We also see imperfect people seek after goals they can never attain, in this movie. Yet they can come together and worship the same God, staying true to the Bible, under the banner of Grace.

Grace is a huge theme of R.O.G.S. We see a lot of Grace with the former Hollywood "bad boy" Stone being welcome back by his formerly estranged father (Flynn). We see Grace in a church and a group of regular people welcoming a stranger in their midst, who is doing community service. We see the doctrine of the "second chance", which God has given to each one of us whom He saved by that same Grace. 

We see Grace in an ex-con named Doug, who now runs a well stocked automotive shop full of custom choppers and equipment. This former ex-con is now a sold-out man for Jesus who loves to do anonymous good deeds, like repair cars for single moms and use the word "Crush" a lot! This was a perfect role for the former World Wrestling Entertainment long time crowd favorite Shawn Michaels, the  Heartbreak Kid (HBK), who is still a favorite with a lot of folks, and is a real follower of Christ himself. 
For a serious student of the Bible or even a casual one, the best illustration of this Grace, which caused God to come down from Heaven and be born as a man to save to world, was the Grace shown by the main female cast member of this movie. Wonderfully played by Angelah Johnson-Reyes (as Kelly Richardson, the pastor's daughter), she is exhibit A of poise and character who gets double-crossed again by Gavin Stone, just after she trusted him as a close possible romantic interest. Stone had gone briefly back to his old life, another illustration of the attraction of the devil just before real breakthrough,  when he felt the tug on the heart which all of us, B.C. (Before Christ) feel, just before conversion.  As Stone is about to make a mistake which could permanently ruin him, he decides to return from Hollywood to Illinois, only to be welcome back with open arms by those he seemingly betrayed.

Director Dallas Jenkins with WWE
wrestling pro Shawn Michael
What happened after Stone's return and the Passion Play's actual performance is the most significant portion of the movie. Every person of faith, from church leader to congregant, can find absolutely no fault with what happened when Gavin Stone finally understood not just Grace, but atonement and what God really did on the Cross.  As his Jesus character hung on the Cross in a "bloody mess", Stone (Brett Dalton) not just comprehended the truth of the Gospel, accurately, but he verbalized it and then surrendered his life to Christ, right there on the Cross...while playing Him! As a minister of the Gospel, I can say that this alone is worth the price of admission!

The Resurrection of Gavin Stone is directed by Dallas Jenkins, the young and accomplished Christian movie director. Dallas is known for directing Kevin Sorbo in "WHAT IF" and others. He is the son of Jerry Jenkins, co-author with Tim LaHaye of the popular LEFT BEHIND Book Series. Dallas is now the director of media arts at Harvest Bible Chapel in the Chicago, Illinois suburbs. Click here for Dallas' bio and portfolio. The Resurrection of Gavin Stone comes out on Friday January 20, 2017 nationwide and is a FIVE STAR PRODUCTION from WWE Studios.
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