Jesus Revolution Blu-ray Review

4 Stars Crowd Pleaser
Jesus Revolution blu ray screenshot

Kelsey Grammar (Frasier) and Jonathan Roumie (The Chosen) star in the late 1960s period drama Jesus Revolution, chronicling a nationwide religious movement and how it transitioned a small local church into one of the top mega churches today.

Jesus Revolution (2023)
Released: 24 Feb 2023
Rated: PG-13
Runtime: 120 min
Director: Jon Erwin, Brent McCorkle
Genre: Drama
Cast: Joel Courtney, Jonathan Roumie, Kimberly Williams-Paisley
Writer(s): Ellen Vaughn, Greg Laurie, Jon Gunn
Plot: The true story of a national spiritual awakening in the early 1970s and its origins within a community of teenage hippies in Southern California.
IMDB rating: 7.3
MetaScore: 46

Disc Information
Studio: Lionsgate
Distributed By: N/A
Video Resolution: 1080P/AVC
Aspect Ratio: 2.39.1
Audio: Dolby Atmos, English 7.1 Dolby TrueHD, English Descriptive Audio, Spanish 5.1 DD, French 5.1 DD
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French
Rating: PG-13
Run Time: 2 Hr. 0 Min.
Package Includes: Blu-ray, DVD, Digital Copy
Case Type: 2-disc Blu-ray eco keepcase with slipcover
Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
Region: A
Release Date: 04/25/2023
MSRP: $39.99

The Production: 4/5

In 1968, pastor Chuck Smith (Kelsey Grammar, Frasier) is trying to grow his dwindling church rather unsuccessfully, blaming the hippie culture for his inability to connect with a younger generation. One day, almost on a dare, his daughter Janette (Ally Ionnides) brings home hippy preacher Lonnie Frisbee (Jonathan Roumie, The Chosen) who had been hitchhiking from San Francisco to Orange County, spreading his message. Chuck doesn’t trust him at first, until the two sit down and start to have a deep, meaningful conversation about what Lonnie believes most hippies are actually looking for, God, but just looking in all of the wrong places. Chuck opens his church, Calvary Chapel, to some of Lonnie’s followers, much to the chagrin of his elders who complain that the newcomers bare feet are staining the carpet of the sanctuary. Chuck’s response is to personally hand wash every bare foot at the entrance to the sanctuary before Sunday services.

Meanwhile, military school student Greg Laurie (Joel Courtney, Super 8) meets Cathe (Anna Grace Barlow, The Big Leap) one day while riding his bike home from school. He is smitten with her, and she invites him to an outdoor concert featuring Janis Joplin and speaker Timothy Leary where LSD packets are dropped from an airplane. When Cathe’s sister Dodie (Mina Sundwall, Lost in Space) almost dies of a drug overdose, Cathe discovers Lonnie’s teachings at Calvary Chapel, and invites Greg to check it out. After being kicked out of his mother Charlene’s (Kimberly Williams-Paisley, The Christmas Chronicles) trailer home, Greg moves in to one of the communes with Lonnie and other followers. Greg is a lost soul, but begins to find purpose as a youth pastor at Calvary Chapel while falling in love with Cathe. During this time, the congregation is exploding with young believers, leading to packed baptisms on the beach at Pirate’s Cove in nearby Newport Beach. The movement catches the eye of a reporter, Josiah (DeVon Franklin), who happens to write for Time magazine, leading to the famous cover story Jesus Revolution.

Okay, yes, Jesus Revolution is what is commonly referred to as a faith-based film, but one thing that co-director Jon Erwin (no relation to me) is known for on films he has made with his brother Andrew is that they tailor their stories to be more accessible to a much broader mainstream audience. That was the case with American Underdog, I Still Believe, Mom’s Night Out and I Can Only Imagine, and is certainly the case here with Jesus Revolution, which he shares director duties with composer Brent McCorkle. While the overall message of redemption and finding meaning in life is certainly based in Christian beliefs, it is not in your face nor does the film try to hit you over the head with its message. The use of popular rock songs from the late 1960s and early 1970s, including I Just Want to Celebrate by Rare Earth, War by Edwin Starr, Lonely People by America, Jesus is Just Alright by The Doobie Brothers, House of the Rising Sun by The Animals, and even Don’t Stop by Fleetwood Mac (among many others) are certainly a surprise find in a so-called faith-based movie. Casting actors who are recognizable to mainstream audiences certainly helps, too, and Kelsey Grammar gives one of his best dramatic performances here as the controversial pastor Chuck Smith (those controversies are overlooked in the film, but many of those occurred much later in his life). Another familiar face is Julia Campbell (a character actress seen in various TV episodes over the years), who plays Chuck Smith’s wife Kay. Joel Courtney and Anna Grace Barlow have some nice on-screen chemistry together. Casting Jonathan Roumie as hippie Lonnie Frisbee is a bit of a cheat, since many have described the real-life Lonnie as appearing similar to the Caucasian interpretation of Jesus, and most know the actor for portraying Jesus on the streaming series The Chosen. That’s not to say that he doesn’t give a solid performance here, as he very certainly does, providing a multi-dimensional man full of charm but also conflict. The real stars of the film, though, are production designer Aimee Holmberg and cinematographer Akis Konstantakopoulos, who manage to match the Mobile, Alabama locations seamlessly with those in Southern California. Having lived in Orange County for most of my life and worked just a few blocks from the original Calvary Chapel campus for nearly 14 years, I was certainly fooled into believing it was shot entirely in the Costa Mesa and Newport Beach vicinity (it was shot about 80% in Alabama and 20% in Orange County, most of that being at the Pirate’s Cove location). Jesus Revolution is an entertaining film that is accessible to more mainstream audiences without hitting its audience over the head with its message.

Video: 4.5/5

3D Rating: NA

Jesus Revolution arrives on Blu-ray from Lionsgate with a nearly perfect 1080p AVC-encoded transfer that retains the film’s theatrical 2.39:1 aspect ratio. Colors are vivid and not overly saturated, with a grading that leans more towards yellows, oranges and browns to depict both the 1970s era the film is set in as well as the warmth of the Southern California sun. Contrast is where the transfer suffers somewhat, giving the film a slight haze and blacks that never quite achieve black. Detail is very good, with well-defined textures particularly in the period costumes and deteriorating condition of the commune home.

Audio: 5/5

The default Dolby Atmos track is very impressive for a film of this genre and budget. It provides great immersion, especially in its exterior sequences with rainfall, wind, and other atmospheric effects. The front soundstage is wide, with dialogue mostly directed to the center while music and effects are spread nicely across the fronts and moving seamlessly to the rears. LFE is strong, offering a nice boost to the low-end for many of the period rock songs.

Special Features: 4/5

Audio Commentary: Co-directors Jon Erwin and Brent McCorkle are joined by producer Kevin Downes as they discuss many aspects of the making of the film (the track was recorded two months before its theatrical release). Jon Erwin also discusses how this was very much a passion project of his, dating back to just after the release of his first film, Woodlawn, when he purchased a copy of the vintage Time magazine issue that included the article about the Jesus Movement. The three also discuss how the film almost received an R rating for its drug scenes.

When God Has a Plan: Making “Jesus Revolution” (1080p; 32:50): This documentary and the commentary track are the meat and potatoes of the special features on this disc. The cast and crew, along with the real-life Greg and Cathe Laurie, discuss the movie and what it means to them.

The Heart of the Film (1080p; 3:57): Typical EPK behind the scenes trailer that includes many soundbites featured in the above documentary.

Inspired by a True Movement (1080p; 6:24): Much of the content contained in this featurette is included in the main documentary, focused more on the movement rather than the film.

Behind the Scenes of Living Water with Anne Wilson (1080p; 11:31): A featurette that was shown at advance screenings of the film, shot on the set of the music video for Living Water. Co-directors Jon Erwin and Brent McCorkle and producer Kevin Downes discuss the movie with singer Anne Wilson. The featurette concludes with the music video.

Faces of the “Jesus Revolution” (1080p; 5:55): A look at the cast of the film, including many soundbites from the main documentary.

Deleted Scenes (1080p; 9:41): Co-directors Jon Erwin and Brent McCorkle introduce seven sequences cut from the film, with optional commentary.

DVD Copy

Digital Copy: An insert contains a code to redeem a digital copy on either Vudu (HDX) or iTunes/Apple TV (UHD). I would recommend redeeming on iTunes as you get a UHD digital, plus if you have an Apple TV device, you get access to the same features listed above plus the trailer and a short sermon from pastor Greg Laurie. Vudu is HDX and only includes the trailer for the film as a bonus feature.

Overall: 4/5

Jesus Revolution is an entertaining film that is accessible to more mainstream audiences without hitting its audience over the head with its message.

Todd Erwin has been a reviewer at Home Theater Forum since 2008. His love of movies began as a young child, first showing Super 8 movies in his backyard during the summer to friends and neighbors at age 10. He also received his first movie camera that year, a hand-crank Wollensak 8mm with three fixed lenses. In 1980, he graduated to "talkies" with his award-winning short The Ape-Man, followed by the cult favorite The Adventures of Terrific Man two years later. Other films include Myth or Fact: The Talbert Terror and Warren's Revenge (which is currently being restored). In addition to movie reviews, Todd has written many articles for Home Theater Forum centering mostly on streaming as well as an occasional hardware review, is the host of his own video podcast Streaming News & Views on YouTube and is a frequent guest on the Home Theater United podcast.

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