The Christian Waiting for Guffman…
…Is called Jesus People: The Movie, and I saw it for the second time tonight, and laughed as much as the first time I saw it. It’s a film that makes fun of how ridiculous evangelicals can be, but does so in a way that is respectful.
The film is a feature-length version of a six-episode online series that debuted early in 2008 on Independent Comedy Network (ICN), sort of a “minor league” for shows hoping to make the jump to the bigs—traditional TV or, in this case, film. It’s currently on the 2009 festival circuit; it will screen at the Gospel Music Association’s annual celebration week in April, and will likely be released on DVD in the late summer or fall.
The film tells the satirical story of Cross My Heart, a Christian dance-pop band-in-the-making. The four-person, coed group—an homage to Christian dance-pop classics like Jump 5—includes an aging CCM pop star trying to resuscitate her career after a sex scandal (played by Edi Patterson), a newbie Christian party girl with a wild streak (Lindsay Stidham), a goody-goody fundamentalist with a fondness for God’s wrath (Damon Pfaff), and a token minority member who plays the sympathetic everyman (Rich Pierrelouis). The film also stars Joel McCrary (AMERICAN BEAUTY, SEINFELD), Wendi McLendon (RENO 911), Laura Silverman (THE SARAH SILVERMAN PROGRAM), Tim Bagley (KNOCKED UP), Octavia Spencer (BAD SANTA), and Jennifer Elise Cox (THE BRADY BUNCH MOVIE).
Jesus People skewers the evangelical subculture in subtle and not-so-subtle ways, poking fun at everything from Left Behind eschatology to promise rings to the familiar “prayer as gossip” trope. Its closest cousin might be 2004’s Saved!, though that film did not contain the underlying empathy for Christian culture that Jesus People contains
In any case, it’s worth checking out the web series, if you haven’t already. I haven’t seen a lot of successful web series like this (except for last year’s Quarterlife, which was horrible) but I have to say that this one is done pretty well. And the feature-length film version is even better. Refreshing to see a cinematic treatment of Christianity that is legitimately funny, piercing, fair, and true.