Review: ‘Jesus People’ goes on a holy roller-coaster ride
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).
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.
MPAA rating: None.
Running time: 1 hour, 28 minutes.
Playing: At the Arena Cinema, Hollywood.
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