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Review: 'Jesus People' goes on a holy roller-coaster ride

The mockumentary 'Jesus People' pokes fun at Christian pop music in the style of 'Best in Show' and 'A Mighty Wind.'

April 10, 2014|By Gary Goldstein
  • Laura Silverman as Tami Wiles in the movie "Jesus People."
Laura Silverman as Tami Wiles in the movie "Jesus People." (Freestyle Releasing )

The world of Christian pop music gets the "Best in Show" and "A Mighty Wind" treatment in the clever, consistently amusing mockumentary "Jesus People."

The film, an offshoot of a Web series made popular on FunnyOrDie.com, brings together a deft comedic cast (including six of the series' original actors) who enjoyably sell this tale of the speedy rise and fall of a hapless Christian band named Cross My Heart.

Formed under the aegis of the earnest, supposedly dying — and conspicuously bewigged — Pastor Jerry (Joel McCrary), the group brings together a diverse, quasi-talented quartet: a former Christian music diva (Edi Patterson), a devout dweeb (Damon Pfaff), a small-town beauty queen (Lindsay Stidham) and a bemused African American dude (Richard Pierre-Louis, a standout).

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Against a host of external odds and internal issues, the band finds itself with a near-instant hit in its first single, "Save the World." But it's good news-bad news when the song unexpectedly turns into a kind of environmental anthem, embraced by liberals but enraging conservatives. (Though the movie holds a 2009 copyright, it still feels on the money, especially in its portrayal of the left-right divide.)

How Jerry and his pacemakers navigate this theo-musical roller coaster — all while documentary cameras roll — makes for a totally engaging ride, one that stacks up quite well against the Christopher Guest oeuvre.

Writers Dan Steadman and Rajeev Sigamoney wisely keep a lid on excessive silliness as they jab at such topics as religious fervor, opportunism and artistic talent — or the lack thereof. Director Jason Naumann keeps things moving apace with a nicely calibrated touch.

Look for such familiar faces as Mindy Sterling, Jennifer Elise Cox, Wendi McLendon-Covey, Tim Bagley and Octavia Spencer in fun cameos.

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"Jesus People."

MPAA rating: None.

Running time: 1 hour, 28 minutes.

Playing: At the Arena Cinema, Hollywood.

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