Ever since The Resurrection of Gavin Stone was first announced 2 years ago I’ve been eagerly awaiting its release. We’ve been treated to vlogs from the director, Dallas Jenkins, and a wealth of stills and behind the scenes photos, all of which has served to make me even more excited to finally see the film in the theater. Honestly though, it was definitely worth the wait. Before I continue, I should warn you that this review will have some mild spoilers, so if you’d rather not be spoiled at all prior to seeing the movie then don’t go any further. Once you’ve watched, hurry back to this page so you can read all about why I, personally, loved the film so much. Otherwise, read on!
The Resurrection of Gavin Stone has a pretty simple premise. A washed up actor lands himself in some legal trouble and, as a result, he’s sentenced to 200 hours of community service in a local church. The film follows a classic blueprint, familiar from many popular romantic comedies, but without the slapstick humor or unrealistic elements that can make such movies feel rather fantastical. In fact, I would say that the film focuses more on genuine friendships than it does romance, and that’s one of the things that makes it feel like a fresh take on a familiar genre.
As the film’s lead, playing the titular character of Gavin Stone, Brett Dalton proves his leading man status early on. Although we’ve seen him as a lead in an ensemble cast, this is the first time that we, as an audience, get to see him truly front and center. It’s also wonderful to see him playing a role so different in tone than those he’s already known for. Dalton’s comedic timing is sharp and many of the funniest moments in the film feature a light-hearted humor that he embraces as Gavin. It’s in the more dramatic moments, however, that he really shines. Dalton brings a necessary complexity to Gavin’s character, which could otherwise come off as somewhat obnoxious, that really makes the audience root for him. As a result, Gavin’s excitement is infectious, his sadness heartbreaking, and when he starts to make real friendships for the first time in his life, you can’t help but find yourself smiling and cheering for him.
Despite the heavy lifting done by the film’s lead, Dalton’s got a tremendous supporting cast, including a couple of genuine comedians. Anjelah Johnson and Neil Flynn (The Middle) might be two of the funniest actors in this cast, but here they embrace more serious roles with ease. Johnson delivers the most realistic performance of a Pastor’s daughter that I’ve ever seen. Having known people in my own church just like Kelly I know that they can come off as intimidating and unapproachable, and Johnson plays this character to perfection.
Ultimately, its Flynn’s gut wrenching performance as Gavin’s disillusioned father that is probably one of the more heartbreaking character arcs of the movie. One of my favorite moments in the film features an excited Gavin trying to talk about the day’s rehearsal with his dad, who isn’t all that receptive. We discover that they’ve been estranged for years, and the father-son dynamic between Dalton and Flynn is played beautifully realistically. Gavin’s backstory with his dad is presented at the start of the film when they present Gavin’s backstory in an entertaining newsbyte reminiscent of E! True Hollywood Story, but I would have liked to explore their dynamic more. Throughout the film, you get to see the two take steps toward mending their relationship, but the film never truly gives us a resolution to that arc. There’s a short exchange at the end of the film that lets you know they’re “working on it”, but considering the emphasis the plot placed on Gavin making up with his father, I would have liked an extra scene between father and son to give us some closure for their storyline.
I did, however, really appreciate the way that parallels were drawn between Gavin’s estranged relationship with his father versus Kelly’s very loving relationship with hers. Throughout the film, we get to see Kelly’s father, who is the Pastor, acting as a sounding board for his progressively frustrated daughter. He never shies away from giving her brutally honest advice, and she is always receptive to it, speaking to a closeness that doesn’t even need to be explicitly stated. Where Gavin and his father hardly speak more than a few words to each other, Kelly and her father speak often, and it’s a really lovely dynamic to watch.
For me though, Johnson shines the most opposite Dalton. The two bounce off each other beautifully and their flirtatious banter is a delight to watch. This isn’t a conventional romantic comedy with over the top declarations of love, but that didn’t stop me finding myself seriously rooting for Gavin and Kelly. He brings out a playful side to her that no one else can seem to tap into, and she makes him want to be a better version of himself. It’s also hilarious watching Gavin try to impress Kelly early on in the movie. Their first meeting, a classic meet cute involving a mop and lightsaber sound effects, will make you chuckle if not laugh out loud. It’s no wonder he fails at impressing her 9 out of 10 times. He even resorts to Google a couple times for tips on how to woo her, but eventually all it takes is a single moment for Kelly to see him in a different light.
This entire film was wonderfully cast with some really surprising performances, such as former wrestler Shawn Michaels. I didn’t know much about Michaels going into the film, but I definitely came out a new fan. As Doug, Gavin’s mentor in church, Michaels represents the ideal churchgoer, welcoming without judgement, even when the newcomer is hugely overcompensating in an attempt to fit in. Doug represented such a warm and genuine character that I couldn’t help but love him.
Overall, The Resurrection of Gavin Stone is an inspirational family film that appeals to all ages, regardless of religion. It’s a film about a regular guy who’s just trying to fit in somewhere new, and I think that’s something everyone can relate to. I would go as far as to say that this movie is a real gem, enjoyable and fun to watch, and impossible to walk out of without feeling better than you did when you walked in.
The Resurrection of Gavin Stone is now playing in theaters.