THE JESUS ROLLS (2020)
John Turturro, Bobby Cannavale, Audrey Tautou, Christopher Walken, Jon Hamm, Pete Davidson, Susan Sarandon, JB Smoove, Gloria Reuben, Sonia Braga, Michael Badalucco, Margaret Reed, Rosa Gilmore
Directed by John Turturro
Twenty years after the Coen Brothers’ “The Big Lebowski” brought us the memorable line, “Nobody f---s with the Jesus” uttered by John Turturro’s colorful character Puerto Rican kingpin Jesus Quintana, the bowling alley’s version of Prince resurfaces but not in the Coen universe. A bit strange, yes, but also a clever move by Turturro who directed the unsequel. He’s taken Jesus and dropped him in the middle of a reboot of the 1974 sex romp comedy “Les Valseuses” which was controversial in its day for the amount of nudity, sexual acts, and moral ambiguity. Cameos by a host of actors fill the gaps and while this may not have been the best way to bring back The Jesus once you see Turturro back in character you’ll realize that he would make any film interesting to say the least, even “Call of the Wild.” Imagine hearing “The Yukon is a dangerous place pendejo.”
When Bertrand Blier’s “Les Valseuses” was released in France in the mid 70s it featured Gérard Depardieu, Miou-Miou, and Patrick Dewaere as free spirits roaming the countryside while committing crimes and having sex as much as possible. Shocking back then but not by today’s standards. In “The Big Lebowski” we watched Jesus throw strikes; here he’s just striking out in the bedroom as a different kind of baller. There’s a lot of nude scenes in “The Jesus Rolls” but it’s toned down from the French film.
The story begins as Jesus is released from prison with a cameo by Christopher Walken as the warden, and The Gypsy Kings performing their flamenco rumba style music in a cell. The group’s take on The Eagles’ “Hotel California” provided Jesus with a theme in “Lebowski.” In “The Jesus Rolls” the soundtrack features the flamenco stylings of French musician Émilie Simon which fits perfectly with Turturro’s vision.
Sticking with the plot of “Valseuses” we watch Jesus hit the road with sidekick Petey (Bobby Cannavale) after stealing a muscle car belonging to hair dresser Paul Dominique (Jon Hamm) and then returning the car only to take off with Paul’s assistant Marie (Audrey Tautou of “Amélie”) who’s never experienced an orgasm. Well no need to fear, SNL’s Pete Davidson is here and yes, he hooks up with Tautou. Davidson plays the ex-con son of an ex-con mom played by Susan Sarandon. I have to admit out of all the cameos in the film, Davidson brought the biggest smile to my face.
Those going into the theater expecting a faithful sequel to the Coen Brothers film will be disappointed and perplexed. This may not have been the best way to resurrect Jesus but the most original for sure. You’ll remember in “The Big Lebowski” the character was known as a pederast according to Walter,” He did six months in Chino for exposing himself to an eight-year-old.” Turturro quickly explains in a flashback that Jesus was innocent during the opening scene.
The Dude abides but The Jesus rolls as far away from the Coens as possible in the new comedy. The film doesn’t always work, it’s a little weird seeing Jesus having sex all the time (never thought I’d write that line), but what do we really know about the character? He was only in a couple of scenes in “Lebowski.” Maybe Turturro should have gone with a traditional remake of “Les Valseuses” but then we wouldn’t get to see him reprise the Puerto Rican kingpin one more time and so I’ll take what I can get. There are some funny moments and with Jesus the approach is always more fun than an actual strike.
(2 ½ stars)