The Resurrection of Gavin Stone

Posted on January 19, 2017 at 5:39 pm

Copyright BH Tilt 2016

A spoiled former child star makes some bad choices and ends up sentenced to 200 hours of community service as a janitor in a church, where he is cast in the annual Easter passion play — as Jesus — in the light-hearted Christian romantic comedy “The Resurrection of Gavin Stone.” Handsome “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D” star Brett Dalton stars in the title role, with stand-up charmer and “MADtv’s” Bon Qui Qui Anjelah Johnson-Reyes as Kelly, the by-the-rules preacher’s kid who directs the play.

We get a glimpse of Stone in his cute sit-com years, catch phrase and all, and then a look at some wild partying with a side of mayhem when he happens to be back in his home town. And so, with the sentence of community service and not being in demand any more as an actor, he has no choice but to move in with his estranged dad (“The Middle” and “Scrubs” star Neil Flynn) while he works it off, with the 200 hours counting down on his phone.

He shows up at the church, looking dissolute and louche, and asks the man fixing the furnace where to find the pastor. Of course that is the pastor (“The Cutting Edge” star D.B. Sweeney). He not unkindly hands Gavin a mop and bucket — the sharper sting is that he doesn’t recognize Gavin or know anything about his fame. The 200 hours seems like forever.

But then Gavin sees the auditions for the play and suddenly he is at home. He explains that he knows about acting and wants to try out for the lead role. It’s a lot easier than mopping, and, at heart, he really is an actor, as we see when he chooses a surprising speech for his audition — a monologue from “Hamlet” — and performs it surprisingly well. He lies and says he is a believing Christian. Kelly is pretty sure that is not true but casts him in the role of Jesus because he is a good actor and because her father reminds her that they believe in second chances.

Gavin is humorously ignorant about the details of the story and at first impetuously offers to improve the script. But as he plays the role and is inspired by the faith and kindness of the people around him, he reconciles with his father, makes new friends, begins to fall for Kelly, and looks forward to the performance — until his dream job offer comes in and in order to take it he has to leave right away.

The sweet story has no surprises, but the humor and the very capable and appealing cast — including Shawn Michaels from the WWE, which co-produced the film — make it fun to watch, and make it touching as well.

Parents should know that this film includes some bad behavior and mayhem and a passion play with a bloody crucifixion image.

Family discussion: Why did Gavin make so many bad choices? What surprised him about the people in the church?

If you like this, try: “Brother White” and the church/study guide resources made available for the film.

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Interview: The Resurrection of Gavin Stone Star Anjelah Johnson-Reyes

Posted on January 17, 2017 at 3:52 pm

The Resurrection of Gavin Stone” is a sweet, gentle Christian romantic comedy about a spoiled, arrogant former child actor who is sentenced to 200 hours of community service following some bad behavior. He begins as a janitor for a local church and ends up being cast as Jesus in their Easter passion play. It opens January 20, 2017 at theaters across the US.

I spoke to star Anjelah Johnson-Reyes (preacher’s daughter and play director Kelly Richardson) about making the film.

Johnson-Reyes, perhaps best known for her “Bon Qui Qui” skit on “MADtv,” was delighted to play her first romantic lead role. The necklace with a key pendant she wears throughout the film is her own, given to her by her husband when he proposed. She is used to doing standup, improv, and comedy, so she really enjoyed the chance to play someone who is a bit straight-laced. In the early scenes, her hair is pulled back into a rather severe style, but as the movie continues both she and her hair get to loosen up a bit. “I was not sure how well that was going to go come off actually, but I feel like people will get the journey that she’s on and where she is starting from. She begins in this place of by the book rules and regulations and then by the end of it she’s learned to extend grace not only to others but to herself. It was my first read romantic role and I was really excited about that, just to be able to do some work on a character where I didn’t just come in for a day and be that guest star but to come in and actually be a part of the project from the beginning to the end and be a real core part of the story was a lot of fun. I wasn’t the funny character in the film, so it wasn’t really a place where I had a lot of opportunity to improvise and try to crack a joke or two. Although of course I have my natural genius comedic timing . I would stick to what was written more times than not to help guide me actually because otherwise I’ll end up trying to be the funny one.”

She got caught up in her role as the director of what appears to be a very ambitious version of the story of Christ’s life. “In the movie we didn’t actually film the entire play, but by the end of it we kind of wanted to see the whole play.”

She created a backstory for the character to give depth to her interactions with D.B. Sweeney, who plays her preacher dad. “I really just tried to think about the conversations that I would have…I was going to say with my dad but I have a different relationship with my dad so it’s definitely not that one but more the kind of conversation I guess I would have with a parental figure, my mom or somebody to where I would come in like confide in them. I really just tried to kind of put that relationship with him. I will tend to lean on the stories that I’ve built in my mind and the memories I have built in my mind for this character and then DB is just like the icing on the cake when he comes and he adds his flavor to it then it’s all fun. It really helps to build my back story of my character and being able to rely on that as opposed to my own wounds and hurt that I have experienced in my own life that I go to therapy to get rid of. I would say that one of the best piece of advice I’ve gotten from a fellow actress was, ‘Listen, you pay all kinds of money in therapy to heal those wounds and be a better person. You don’t need to be digging them up every time you are in an acting scene.'”

She hopes that audiences “would walk away from this film thinking about a person that they need to forgive in their lives and thinking about a person that maybe they need to extend grace to. And maybe it’s themselves.”

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