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Film Review: ‘The Resurrection of Gavin Stone’

A predictable yet pleasant faith-based dramedy about a former child star who gets a shot at redemption.

Brett Dalton, Anjelah Johnson-Reyes, Neil Flynn, D.B. Sweeney, Shawn Michaels, Patrick Gagnon, Tim Frank, Tara Rios, Liam Matthews, Mary Thornton, Kirk B.R. Woller, Christopher Maleki.

Official Site: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt4902904/

At one point in “The Resurrection of Gavin Stone,” a thoroughly predictable but undemandingly pleasant faith-based dramedy about a career-stalled actor who gets a shot at redemption while playing the lead role in a megachurch pageant, the prodigal-son protagonist makes a passing reference to a past acting gig in “a Hallmark movie.” The allusion is not without irony — indeed, the remark seems positively meta in this context — since “Resurrection” itself adheres to the same formula that has served many Hallmark Channel cable features so well: Take some familiar faces from past or current TV series, mix them into a plot about a big-city striver who reconnects with hometown roots, and bring everything to a boil with a contrived climactic conflict. Director Dallas Jenkins and screenwriter Andrea Nasfell follow the recipe with all the purposeful attentiveness of inventory clerks ticking items off a checklist. The end result merits a paraphrase of the memorable appraisal by Miss Jean Brodie: For those who like that sort of thing, this is the sort of thing they probably will like.

Brett Dalton (“Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”) plays the title character, the former child star of a popular sitcom who has grown up to be a hard-partying, self-destructive wastrel facing ever-diminishing employment opportunities. Sentenced to perform 200 hours of community service after trashing a hotel rooftop during a rare visit to his hometown of Masonville, Ill., Gavin shows up at the Masonville Bible Church — and is promptly assigned janitorial duty by pastor Allen Richardson (D.B. Sweeney). The erstwhile big shot gets to set aside his mop only after he auditions for, and wins, the lead role of Jesus Christ in an ambitious church production directed by Kelly Richardson (comedian Anjelah Johnson-Reyes), who just happens to be the pastor’s daughter.

Anyone who has ever seen a Hallmark movie — or, for that matter, almost any other kind of movie — can guess what happens next. Gavin, initially cocky and condescending, gradually gets over himself as he becomes a team player, warms to Kelly and his co-stars, reconnects with his estranged father (Neil Flynn of “Scrubs” and “The Middle”), and, not incidentally, takes to heart the evangelical message of the Bible-based dialogue he proclaims on stage. Just before opening night, however, he is sorely tempted to ditch the church project and accept a comeback role in Hollywood. Does Gavin wind up being faithful to his new friends? Does he recognize that some things are more important than restoring stardom? Is the Pope Catholic?

To their credit, Jenkins and Nasfell refrain from hard-selling anything, so that Gavin never really comes off as an obnoxious jerk, his chaste relationship with Kelly — so chaste, they never even kiss — progresses at a credible pace, and the movie’s religious elements, while respectfully given due dramatic weight, are scarcely more conspicuous here than in many more secular entertainments. The lead players are appealing, and the supporting cast (including World Wrestling Entertainment superstar Shawn Michaels, who makes a winning impression as a born-again biker-turned-mechanic) is fairly solid across the board. As it happens, “The Resurrection of Gavin Stone” is a co-production of WWE Studios. Which proves, evidently, that the Lord isn’t the only one who moves in mysterious ways.

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Film Review: 'The Resurrection of Gavin Stone'

Reviewed online, Houston, Jan. 18, 2017. MPAA Rating: PG. Running time: 91 MIN.

Production: A High Top Releasing release of a WWE Studios presentation, in association with BH/Tilt, Walden Media, of a Vertical Church Films production, in association with Power in Faith Prods. Producers: Michael J Luisi, Fred Adams. Executive producers: James MacDonald, Alix Taylor.

Crew: Director: Dallas Jenkins. Screenplay: Andrea Nasfell. Camera (color): Lyn Moncrief. Editors: Howard E. Smith, Kenneth Marsten.

With: Brett Dalton, Anjelah Johnson-Reyes, Neil Flynn, D.B. Sweeney, Shawn Michaels, Patrick Gagnon, Tim Frank, Tara Rios, Liam Matthews, Mary Thornton, Kirk B.R. Woller, Christopher Maleki.

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