Boise audiences will get a free preview of a new faith-based romantic comedy, “The Resurrection of Gavin Stone,” on Wednesday, Dec. 14.
The film will be released nationally on Friday, Jan. 20.
Its director Dallas Jenkins, who co-wrote the screenplay, hopes the film will become a bridge between the Christian genre and more mainstream comedies.
“I believe that many Christian films are very earnest,” he says. “Some segments of the audience want sermons set to film. A lot of the people who go to these films, like ‘God’s Not Dead,’ are not frequent movie-goers. They only come out for movies that are serious about their faith. We were serious as well, but I’m hoping with this film will branch out a bit.”
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The film will play here because Angela Strong, of Meridian, saw the trailer and reached out to Jenkins on Facebook.
“I thought it was great, and I saw that he was doing sneak peeks, so I told him he should do one in Boise,” she says. “He said, ‘Set it up.’ ”
Strong knows Mike Lehosit, who owns Overland Park Cinema and who donated the theater. So the film will screen here, and Strong will have a videographer on hand to record audience reactions.
Jenkins is the son of writer and biographer Jerry B. Jenkins, who co-authored several books, including the popular “The Left Behind” series about the chaos that ensues in a post-rapture contemporary world. Jenkins inherited his storytelling sensibilities from his father, he says, but found that film was more his form of expression.
“I saw ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’ when I was in high school and I thought, ‘If I could arouse emotion in others the way that movie did with me, (then) that’s what I want to do,’ ” he says.
He and his dad founded the Jenkins Entertainment film company in 2002, and Jenkins made several films inspired by his father’s books. This is his first film with his new company, Vertical Church Films, which is based in Chicago.
“Gavin Stone” tells the story of a Hollywood bad boy, played by Brett Dalton of “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.,” who goes on a bender and lands in jail. Afterward, he must do community service at a nondenominational church, where he starts mopping floors and ends up playing Jesus in the church’s passion play.
Of course he falls for the pastor’s daughter, played by standup comedian Anjelah Johnson-Reyes, and becomes friends with the parishioners, including one played by WWE wrestler Shawn Michaels. But the real point of the story is that Gavin experiences what it means to belong to a church. That changes his life.
“This is one of the few movies that is actually about the impact church can have on a person and a community,” Jenkins says. “It’s not just ‘Church is great and Christians will love this.’ It’s told from the perspective of an outsider. There is comedy, but there’s also an emotional message about the impact church can have on someone’s life.”
Even 20 years ago this film might not have been called a Christian film. Movies such as 1947’s “The Bishop’s Wife,” about an angel who comes to Earth to help a bishop and his wife build a church and save their marriage, were just movies with a message.
The “Christian genre” started about 12 years ago after the success of “The Passion of the Christ” showed there was an audience who wanted films with a strong message of faith. That label helps market a film, but it’s also limiting for filmmakers, Jenkins says.
“Nowadays, the marketing is so segmented that unless you’re making a $100 million Marvel Comics movie, films are target market,” Jenkins says. “There are rules you have to follow. It limits you somewhat. It makes it difficult to just make a normal movie without it being boxed in with only one audience.”
The comedy, irony and satire helps soften the sentimentality, he says.
“Not only does the Christian market appreciate it and laugh, but also the non-church-going audience can say, ‘Maybe this movie can be for me, too.’ It’s not trying to force something on to me. I can just relax and enjoy it.”
Preview screening of “The Resurrection of Gavin Stone”
7 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 14, Overland Park Cinemas, 7051 W. Overland Road, Boise. Free. Seating is first come, first serve.