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The Jesus Rolls – Movie Review

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The Jesus Rolls – Movie Review

Rating: D+ (Bad)

Trailer/Thumbnail Courtesy Level Film

Joel and Ethan Coen’s The Big Lebowski has rightfully become a beloved cult film and with that comes calls to make a sequel. The Coen Brothers have correctly asserted that the Dude is better suited to one stand-alone story. However, that hasn’t stopped John Turturro from taking his minor role as pederast bowler Jesus Quintana and directing a comedy centered on his exploits. However, The Jesus Rolls could have been about any character who entered into Turturro’s noggin. Despite his best efforts as well as the work put in by his cast, the jokes don’t land and its episodic nature results in a film that never quite takes off.

This movie is primarily inspired by a 1974 French film titled Going Places, which was itself based on a book by Bertrand Blier. Turturro is definitely trying to emulate the European road trip film, with a dash of Jim Jarmusch thrown in for good measure. The Jesus Rolls mostly consists of short conversational scenes, but the problem is that the screenplay lacks the needed insight and humour. Jesus was funny in The Big Lebowski, because his short screentime fit the bizarre world occupied by the titular character. However, a lot of that personality is sucked out of this film as we primarily see him take part in petty crimes and attempt to sleep with women. There is a brief sequence in a bowling alley, but this otherwise could have been about any original character.

Most of the comedy gravitates towards low-brow jokes and the shouting of curse words. This is a movie that thinks just the sight of bare buttocks is hilarious and there is even outdated gay panic humour. Bobby Cannavale, who joins Jesus on his journey, is mostly saddled with a character who complains a lot and not much beyond that. Audrey Tautou does bring some spark to her role, as underwritten as it is. The film briefly comes alive when Susan Sarandon plays a woman recently released from prison. Through those ten or so minutes, we’re given a more interesting take on someone returning to society after being behind bars than we get with the main Jesus storyline.

Otherwise, The Jesus Rolls just feels repetitive most of the time. Jesus and his friends commit a crime, they meet an extended cameo, there is some sex and then the film moves on to the next set piece. There are also some strange interludes like a scene in which Jesus compliments a breastfeeding woman in a church. It doesn’t add anything significant to the character and his arc, it’s only a few short minutes long and then the story continues on like it never happened. Even though the characters are traveling through small American towns, it never feels like we get to know these locations.

With how passionate John Turturro is about his character from The Big Lebowski, it’s surprising how little he adds to his personality in The Jesus Rolls. It doesn’t provide any new insight into Jesus and a lot of the time, it doesn’t even feel like the same oddball person who walked through the bowling alley in the Coen Brothers’ film. This movie just meanders along from one sequence to the next with little flow. Most disappointingly, it’s not funny or even chuckle-worthy as the gags and lines lack the timing and energy required. Turturro deserves a bit of credit for not trying to replicate The Big Lebowski and that also makes it easier to disconnect this from that modern comedy classic.

Stefan Ellison
THE SCENE


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