Jesus People review: Christian pop takes the softest of smacks

Jesus People yellow light

This gentle — too gentle — mockumentary barely even takes aim at its easiest potential targets, but the appealing cast is game and manages a few cogent hits.
I’m “biast” (pro): nothing

I’m “biast” (con): nothing

(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)

Christian “rock” and “pop” music could do with a bit of a smackdown (oh, you want teenagers to get actually hot and bothered about Jesus, do you?) and it’s not like it’s even that hard to do. Which makes it a bit of a mystery that this gentle — too gentle — mockumentary barely even attempts the lame jokes such an easy target provides, and almost completely ignores the slightly less easy ones. When evangelical Pastor Jerry (Joel McCrary: The Smurfs 2) gets the bad medical news that he is not long for this world, he panics: He has to save his teenaged son from the devil’s rock and roll before he goes! So he decides to start a Christian rock band, which sort of degenerates into a Christian vocal group when talent is hard to come by. He manages to rustle up Zak (Damon Pfaff), who can genuinely sing but is a complete nutter of the promise-rings variety; local beauty queen Cara (Lindsay Stidham), who’s cute but not very bright; fallen Christian pop star Gloria (Edi Patterson: Mars Needs Moms), who suffers from delusions of fame; and youth pastor Ty (Richard Pierre-Louis: Barbershop 2: Back in Business), who is the only one with any clear appreciation for reality. As this disparate group of would-be comic characters fumfer around in search of comedy, they do make one or two hits that are at least on the target, if not in the bullseye: the sequence in which they shoot their music video makes a few cogent, funny points about the cynical marketing of religion, as does the subsequent debate over whether their “hit” song is best seen as being about embracing Jesus or saving the planet from global warming. (That it could be both is an astute comment on how generic religion can be… and also on the commonalities between secular concerns and religious faith.) I wish Jesus People, based on a Funny or Die Web series, made more of how Jerry overlooks the talents of his wife, Mitzy (Karen Whipple), who obviously would have liked to be asked to be in the band, and in the aborted subplot in which the putative documentarian, filmmaker Jodi (Nikki Boyer), keeps getting drawn into the story she is supposedly merely observing; there’s something to be said about the lines between telling a story and being part of a story that is sadly missed here. Still, the cast is game — Pierre-Louis is especially good; I’d love to see him in something bigger that takes more advantage of his appealing charisma — and their fun is mildly infectious.

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