Review by Sean Boelman
A spin-off of the Coen Brothers’ cult classic The Big Lebowski that did not involve them but still received their blessing, The Jesus Rolls is just as weird and unexpected as one would expect a movie about “The Jesus” to be. An amusing if insubstantial revisit to this character, the film is definitely worth any fan’s time if only for John Turturro’s hilarious performance.
Part of what makes this movie so unique is that, in addition to being a spin-off of The Big Lebowski, this is a remake of Bertrand Blier’s controversial sex comedy Going Places. This film follows Jesus Quintana after he is released from prison, only to become involved in mischief in hijinks with his friends.
The thing that holds this movie back from reaching its full potential is that it largely lacks a sense of narrative drive. Although there are a series of mini-conflicts that occur over the course of the film, and some of these do come back to haunt the characters later, the movie is lacking an overall sense of purpose that would have allowed the film to be more meaningful.
As is the case with Blier’s movie, the overall message of the film is one that isn’t exactly positive, even if it is well-intentioned. The main force driving a majority of the movie is sexual desire, and after a while, it does become tiresome to continue watching these characters live their lives according to their libido.
Ultimately, this film exists mostly to cash in on nostalgia for one of the best scenes in a beloved movie. Although Turturro’s Jesus Quintana only had a small part in The Big Lebowski, his flamboyant mannerisms are among the most memorable parts of the film. Directing and writing the movie specifically to his talents, Turturro is an absolute joy to watch from start to finish.
The supporting cast of the film is also very strong. Bobby Cannavale and Audrey Tatou play Turturro’s main accomplices, and while this is very much Turturro’s show, they each have some very funny moments. The movie also features multiple bit parts from notable faces like Susan Sarandon, Jon Hamm, Pete Davidson, and J.B. Smoove.
On a technical level, one will likely be disappointed if they try to look at this as a follow-up to one of the Coens’ outings. Turturro’s film lacks the visual quirkiness and stylistic flair that made the character so fun to begin with. Still, by taking the character in a different direction (albeit still a ridiculous and flamboyant one), Turturro delivers a movie that is solid on its own right.
The Jesus Rolls may not be the spin-off that people would want or expect from The Big Lebowski, but Turturro is as wonderful as ever and revels in the chance to return to his signature role. This film is a ton of fun to watch, but not much else.
The Jesus Rolls is now playing in theaters and hits VOD on March 6.
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