OVERALL GRADE: B-
The Resurrection of Gavin Stone represents a "Faith" film genre that is showing signs of transitioning from adolescence to young adulthood. It continues to be held back by one-dimensional characters, black & white conflicts, & some cheesy dialogue, but it also takes advantage of a good premise to create some genuinely thoughtful and intelligent dramatic moments.
The central concept here is better than usual. Yes, a wayward soul learns of Jesus is still the center (that's the genre guys), but having him deceptively and selfishly swipe the role as Jesus in a church play is a more direct genre premise than previous faith films were. I think faith films tend to be more successful when they set their stories within the church world, rather than tell more generic stories that the church eventually barges into. One feels more organic, the other just comes off like an expensive "Jesus Juke."
The concept is better told here as well. There is clearly a maturation (production budget effect?) in the basic quality of the filmmaking: acting, camera work, editing, etc. Despite this maturation, like adolescence, the filmmakers still seem unaware that a stark contrast they make one of the thematic layers (Hollywood = bad vs Church = good) betrays their maturation. The way it plays out is too on the nose and can be too easily dismissed as caricaturing a whole segment of society.
Still, the film shows some self-awareness of the wealthy evangelical cultural bubble that's driving the making the film. They even mine some genuine laughs from it. I laughed pretty hard at a couple of the odd evangelical lingo they use draw attention to in this fish out of water story. In particular there's a good sequence where three church guys invite the main character over for some "fellowship" that felt genuine, relatable, and pretty funny.Yet at times the film is also mind-numbingly oblivious to how one-note the portrayal of the church can be. The self-aware jokes are kinda funny, but they never are allowed to have serious self-reflective bite. It reminds me of a nice teen who discovers and points out something funny about their cultural bubble, but then finishes by saying, "I didn't mean it, I was just kidding."
There are some genuinely thoughtful dramatic sequences here as well. I found the finale sequence surprisingly moving and the fact it featured a several themes culminating at the same time was very smartly done. However, I fear much of that will be ignored by the "unconverted" due to the continued reliance on one-dimensional.characters & the obvious need to re-affirm the absolute goodness of the cultural bubble that is producing the film.
That said, this film represents another hopeful step forward for this "faith" genre. We may yet see a few gems made from this film community...or like many in our current culture, we may just be seeing a prolonged hovering between adolescence and young adulthood.
OVERALL GRADE: B-