- 1h 47m
Alabama preacher's daughter runs off with a touring Christian hair metal band during the summer of 1986.Alabama preacher's daughter runs off with a touring Christian hair metal band during the summer of 1986.Alabama preacher's daughter runs off with a touring Christian hair metal band during the summer of 1986.
The 'make Jesus famous' refrain will be immediately familiar to a subset of folks with experience in evangelical churches and is one of many references to that brand of church culture in the film. The religious elements of Electric Jesus are handled with nuance and a clearly intimate understanding of the source material, though I often felt that the named references were occasionally laid on a bit thick and won't mean much to folks who don't have a very specific background. Especially the recurring Amy Grant shenanigans.
The tour, proposed and organized by used-car-salesman-esque (though perhaps they were going more for skeevy tent revivalist?) band manager Skip Wick (Brian Baumgartner), is initially a small potatoes venture hitting skating rinks and youth meetings. Skip's interactions with the band are fun to watch as the tour continues. Stowaways, hormones, and big breaks knock the narrative around a bit until a climactic final show.
The musical performances are excellent. The songs are well written and engineered, with catchy hooks and clever lyrics that accurately reflect the ideological temperament of these sorts of groups. The actors are actually the ones doing the performing, which was put to brilliant use in a scene featuring mixing board sabotage. (Correction: Not all of the actors actually play their instruments, so props for fooling me there.)
Off-stage, the band members are serviceable actors with great chemistry. Sadly, most of them are underdeveloped as characters. They're always around but we don't really get to know much about them, with the relationship between the band's sound guy and a stowaway pastor's kid occupying far too much focus for a movie about a rock band.
The epilogue could've been removed in favor of an extra scene or two of the band members.
I'd have loved to have seen a Spinal Tap-esque approach to this project, with the band members and writers developing a massive amount of shared lore/fiction, internalizing it all, and then filming as if they'd truly lived those lives. I understand that not everyone has the luxury of 4 years to develop such a thing and the ultimate aim of the filmmakers may have been elsewhere.
The film was enjoyable and visually pleasing, the music is still rattling around in my brain, and it was great seeing this subject matter presented with heart and understanding. As a survivor of awkward Christian youth culture, I'm thrilled. As a mockumentary fan, I'm a bit disappointed. Still, there's nothing like this and it's worth seeing.
- Oct 26, 2020