A hippie-led revival that graced the cover of Time magazine in 1971 is the subject of an upcoming faith-based film that has the goal of sparking another movement of spiritual renewal.
“Jesus Revolution” (PG) tells the story of the Jesus movement with a focus on three individuals who helped lead it: California pastor Chuck Smith, hippie evangelist Lonnie Frisbee and a young Greg Laurie. It stars Kelsey Grammer (“Cheers,” “Frasier”) as Smith, Jonathan Roumie (“The Chosen”) as Frisbee, Joel Courtney as Laurie, Kimberly Williams-Paisley (“Father of the Bride”) as Laurie’s mother and Anna Grace Barlow as Laurie’s girlfriend and future wife Cathe.
It opens in theaters Feb. 24 and was produced by the same company — Kingdom Story — that made “I Can Only Imagine,” “I Still Believe” and “American Underdog,” among others.
Producer Andrew Erwin said the film’s themes — the search for truth and the meaning of life — are timeless, even if the events took place five decades ago.
‘The right questions’
“Every person in the country needs to see this film,” Erwin told The Baptist Paper.
“These were kids asking the right questions. They were seeking the right thing — they wanted the truth. They wanted meaning. They wanted love.”
Many of the hippies, though, were searching for truth in the wrong places, Erwin noted.
The film opens in late-1960s California as Laurie and his friends embrace the love-and-peace culture of the era and its experimentation with psychedelic drugs. But this group of hippies soon meets another hippie, Frisbee, who rejects drugs and encourages his generation to follow Christ.
Frisbee’s unique blend of gospel and hippie culture receives a boost when the straight-laced Chuck Smith welcomes him into his church in a controversial move that leads a few members to bolt.
“There is an entire generation right now searching for God,” Frisbee tells Smith in the film. “The trouble is, your people reject them.”
Soon, hundreds of hippie Christians are attending Smith’s church, which grows so fast he sets up an outdoor tent. Smith’s view is simple: Frisbee may be barefooted, but he’s delivering the gospel to a new generation that desperately needs it.
In the film’s final acts, Smith and Frisbee clash over the direction of the church, and Laurie launches his own ministry.
“Jesus Revolution” is one of the best inspirational movies, with a solid script, a music score that tugs at the emotions and an all-star cast that makes every scene believable. Roumie is so good, it doesn’t take long to forget he portrays Jesus in “The Chosen.”
Power of unity
The film includes multiple positive messages.
It reminds today’s church that evangelism is often uncomfortable but will — with patience and time — bear fruit. Methods may change, though the gospel does not. In one powerful scene, we watch Smith wash the feet of the hippies in a display of humility.
It reminds us of another universal truth: People are always searching for truth yet often in the wrong places.
The film also includes solid messages about the power of unity (the church flourishes when Smith and Frisbee work together) and the power of love (Smith’s embrace of hippies contrasts with the message they typically hear).
“They were told that drugs and LSD were going to be what unlocked their mind to truth,” producer Andrew Erwin said of the hippie movement. “But on the back of that, these groups of hippies had this legitimate spiritual awakening, and then it just swept the country. That’s where the term ‘Jesus freaks’ came from. It’s a fantastic story. It’s powerful.”
Roumie wants the film to spark another spiritual awakening: When people realize “God is their identity, everything falls into place.”
The film is free of coarse language, sexuality and violence. It does include thematic elements, including one scene showing the aftermath of drug use (we see people hallucinate and one woman frothing from the mouth, though it’s brief).