God works in mysterious ways but the writers of faith-based films rarely do. The standard formula for the genre is to take a person who has fallen from grace, introduce them into a situation that forces them to re-evaluate their life and then watch the transformation unfold.
Screenwriter Andrea Gyertson Nasfell has used this formula with her scripts for TV movies and feature films from “What if ...” to “This Is Our Time.” Her most recent trek down that path, “The Resurrection of Gavin Stone,” never deviates from that course for a second.
That lack of willingness to test an audience would generally be reason enough to pan the product. But, in this case, since the the filmmakers are purposely aiming the production at a specific faith-based audience, it seems acceptable. As long as it hits all of the spiritual notes, it has accomplished its primary purpose.
And, it is all the notes exactly.
The lost soul in this film is Gavin Stone (Brett Dalton), a former child actor whose life has been in a spiral since his popular TV show ended. His latest bad boy antics have landed him 200 hours of community service at a mega-church.
Instead of mopping floors, Stone talks his way into a church production on the life of Jesus Christ being staged by the the pastor’s daughter (Anjelah Johnson-Reyes). Stone sees the production as a way of getting out of hard work and maybe to get close to the attractive director. What he discovers is that both the play and the members of the church force him to look at what’s missing in his life.
Toss in a secondary story about Stone and his father (Neil Flynn) and the movie has enough plot points for a dozen Sunday sermons.
“The Resurrection of Gavin Stone” gets a boost from Dalton, who turns in a charming performance as the title character. He’s just enough of a rogue to make his bad boy history seem real, but he never gets to the point of being so obnoxious there is no room for redemption. He’s charming when he’s working with Johnson-Reyes and very vulnerable in the scenes with Flynn. Dalton’s performance is strong enough to make the film’s familiar formula feel fresh.
And he gets help from Johnson-Reyes and Flynn, who give Dalton strong acting support. They also add to the emotional depth of the movie that’s a plus when the main concern is just getting across the spiritual message.
“The Resurrection of Gavin Stone” is designed with a certain audience in mind. It’s not the greatest story ever told, but it features enough solid direction by Dallas Jenkins, a likable performance by Dalton and enough interesting supporting players to make it enjoyable despite there being no mystery in how this story will end.