The fact that the Coen brothers wouldn’t get within 10 feet of “The Jesus Rolls,” an unauthorized spinoff of “The Big Lebowski,” should tell you everything you need to know.
But in case it doesn’t, let me make things perfectly clear: “The Jesus Rolls” is unpleasant, unfunny and utterly bad. As a pseudo-remake of the 1974 French sex farce “Going Places,” it goes nowhere. As a pseudo-spinoff of “Lebowski,” it reminds us that sometimes Jesus is not worth resurrecting.
You can’t blame director/star/writer John Tuturro for wanting some of that “Lebowski” money again, but you’d think he could at least give us a plot. Or a joke. Or emotion. Or something. Anything.
As you may have gathered, “The Jesus Rolls” (rated R for strong sexual context, language throughout and brief nudity) revolves around Jesus Quintana, who made his first appearance in “Lebowski” as a show-stopping side character in a film full of them.
As we catch up with Quintana some twenty years after “Lebowski”, he is just getting out of prison. So the first thing he does, naturally, is jack a car.
From there, Quintana reunites with both Petey (Bobby Cannavale), a fellow felon, and Marie (Audrey Tatou), a former flame. And then… well, not a lot happens honestly. They steal more cars, get involved in a murder attempt or two, and have sex, lots of it. And then the film ends. It’s a long aimless road trip to nowhere.
Along the way, there is a truly ridiculous procession of cameos by celebrities who misbegottenly decided to slum their way through this. They include, in chronological order: Christopher Walken, Sonia Braga, Jon Hamm, J.B. Smoove, Tim Blake Nelson, Susan Sarandon, Gloria Reuben and Pete Davidson. Each one has a scene or two before collecting their paycheck, and each one deserves better. Yes, even Davidson.
As Tuturro rushes to the next celebrity cameo, he forgets to provide anything in the way of jokes or emotional resonance.
“Emotions are for assholes,” Marie tells us, but that’s cold comfort.
Tuturro’s meandering script makes the film feel much longer than its 85 minutes. Emilie Simon’s score seems woefully miscalculated- oppressively somber during a normal conversation between friends and quirkily energetic during what should be a tender love scene.
At the very least, Tuturro still has the same infectious energy he had two decades ago, and he is well-matched by Cannavale and Tatou, the latter of whom should really have more of a career stateside. But, if this is the best offer she’s gotten, I can understand why she has stayed in France.
Veteran cinematographer Peter Menzies Jr. knows how to frame an appealing scene, and the film is often gorgeous to look at. But that just puts a nice coat of paint on an ugly dud of a star vehicle.
As Marie tells Jesus after sex: “You did not succeed at all, but I will give you an A for effort.”
I, unfortunately, can’t even give him that.
About the author
Stephen Dow is an award-winning journalist with a passion for film – not just consuming it, but thoughtfully and actively engaging with it. He believes that these modern myths have a lot to tell us about our world and ourselves. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.