“The Jesus Rolls” Movie Review


     Writer/director John Turturro reprises his role as Jesus Quintana in “The Jesus Rolls”, a completely unnecessary and virtually unwatchable film about a character whose most notable action in the Coen Brother’s 1998 classic “The Big Lebowski” was licking his bowling ball prior to putting it into play.  The film, which is structured as a standard road movie, plays like “Jay and Silent Bob Reboot” without the context that comes from having appeared extensively in several previous stories.  And while Jay and Silent Bob are actually likable and funny at times, there are no redeeming qualities for Jesus, as Turturro finds it extremely difficult over the film’s 85 minute running time to conjure up anything remotely interesting for the character to do.

     I really don’t think audiences were clamoring for a spin off of any of the “Lebowski” characters, save for Jeff Bridges reprising The Dude.  That goes for Walter, Maude, Bunny, and Donny as well.  Each of them, including Jesus, excel as a result of being a sum of their parts.  It’s only The Dude who could be considered a foundational character whose current exploits would make for a potentially viable story, and yet Turturro, apparently with the Coen’s blessing, brings back the slimiest goon of the bunch, in a film that feels as though he’s making it all up as he goes along.

     We catch up with Jesus (John Turturro) in the present day as he is about to be released from prison.  He’s made plenty of friends while there, including the Warden (Christopher Walken), who lauds him for his bowling skills after having led the prison team to a big win at some point during his stay.  But we don’t see anymore of Walken after his brief scene.  Instead, Bobby Cannavale’s Petey, another directionless lowlife and a long time friend, is waiting outside the prison for Jesus with virtually no plan as to what they will do next.  And as they walk aimlessly within a near by town somewhere in New York, the duo comes across a vintage muscle car Jesus takes an impulsive liking to.  So in true “Repeat Offender” fashion, they steal it of course.  But that’s not before they find themselves in a confrontation with the car’s owner, and the sudden addition of the owner’s girlfriend, Marie (Audrey Tautou), who decides the criminal life is her best option.

     None of this is really played for laughs.  At least not in the manner that the Coen Brothers used the character, who is best taken in smaller doses, but is, unfortunately, plastered all over every scene.  And Turturro, a gifted performer who has no where to go but down with this seedy ex con, runs out of things for the guy to do, at one point even putting him back in a bowling alley just to have him (you guessed it) lick the ball in the same disgusting and over sexualized manner he was once famous for more than 20 years ago.  It’s at this point you realize the fact Jesus is a one note character designed to be memorable for one scene, but incapable of carrying a story by himself.

     With every frame the film slogs forward, every sequence is made to feel contrived and even more lame than what came before it.  As if the entire thing was stitched together from a series of Saturday Night Live sketches with the intent of making a movie, but without any attempt to actually create a cohesive story line.  Not that you want to know anything more about these creeps anyway.  Between Jesus, Petey, and Marie, you may just have the most unlikable  threesome ever committed to film.  There is nothing appealing about them, and yet we are forced to watch them unclothed much of the time during a series of gratuitous and generally appalling sex scenes that add zero to the story, if you want to generously refer to it as such.

     Cameos are used in much the same way the aforementioned Kevin Smith does in his films, but none of them bring forth the desired impact.  I have to believe Turturro was owed some sort of favor from the likes of Pete Davidson, Jon Hamm, J.B. Smoove, and believe it or not, Susan Sarandon in order to have gotten them to agree to be in what is truly one of the worst films I’ve seen in years.  Notice Jeff Bridges isn’t listed there.  The Dude may abide, but he definitely knows crap when he sees it. 

     One can’t argue there’s a family element to all of this or even a love story when the film fails to present anything remotely compelling about any one of the characters. That this is the best trajectory Turturro could come up with for his character’s arc is truly frightening.  He has neither nailed the supposed criminal element, nor has he fleshed out what Jesus really may have been like in a larger role given the minimal foundation provided by “The Big Lebowski”.  The result is a massive waste of time for all involved, but especially for anyone like myself who actually paid to see it.  Sucker! GRADE: F