THE JESUS ROLLS – Review
No, it’s not a Christian movie but a sequel to THE BIG LEBOWSKI. Well, sort of a sequel. THE JESUS ROLLS, which debuts on DVD and Blu-Ray on May 5, is not directed nor written by Joel and Ethan Coen, but by John Turturro, who played the bowling-loving, spandex-wearing character who calls himself “the Jesus,” and doesn’t pronounce it the way Hispanics usually do.
If there were a BIG LEBOWSKI sequel, the bowling adversary of the Dude and pals Walter and Donny, is not the first character that would spring to mind for most audiences. But this is not really a LEBOWSKI sequel. Instead, director John Turturro is playing the same character as in the Coen brothers classic, but now that character has been transported to another movie, for a remake of the 1974 French sex farce LES VALSEUSES, which was released in the U.S. under the title GOING PLACES.
THE BIG LEBOWSKI’s bowling “the Jesus” looks the same, sounds the same, moves the same. He’s just in a different movie. THE JESUS ROLLS is really Turturro’s homage to the bawdy French comedy starring Gerard Depardieu and Patrick Dewaere. The French title LES VALSEUSES is actually a rude slang term for testicles, which tells you a lot about what to expect from this film. The story centers on two buddies, played by Turturro and Bobby Cannavale is this remake, who have recently been released from prison. Not reformed, they join up with a hooker pal (Audrey Tautou) to engage in a string of petty crimes and sexual adventures while larking across the countryside in stolen cars.
The original, which starred French bombshell Miou-Miou along with Gerard Depardieu and Patrick Dewaere, was considered pretty controversial in its day but gradually it acquired cult film status with a number of filmmakers and film buffs. Turturro has assembled an impressive supporting cast for his homage, including Jon Hamm, Christopher Walken, Pete Davidson, Tim Blake Nelson and Susan Sarandon. Turturro also wrote the script, adapted from director Bertrand Blier’s own, which Blier based on his novel of the same name.
The film opens with The Jesus, aka Jesus Quintana (John Turturro), is being released from prison, where the warden (Christopher Walken) tells him how much the prison bowling team will miss his championship prowess. Outside the prison, he is met by his pal and fellow ex-con Petey (Bobby Cannavale). Almost the first thing the Jesus wants to do is steal a car, a bright orange classic muscle car belonging to an obnoxious hairdresser. The hairdresser turns out to be the boyfriend/pimp of one of Jesus’ old friends, a prostitute named Marie (Audrey Tautou). Ditching the hairdresser, Marie joins Jesus and Petey as they set off on their road trip of farce, crime and sex. Along the way, they meet other characters, including a recently released ex-con, played by Susan Sarandon.
Why Turturro wanted to draw the interest of BIG LEBOWSKI fans when he was going remake the French sex comedy LES VALSEUSES is not clear. In fact, it seems counterproductive, ensuring that LEBOWSKI fans will be disappointed while missing out on appealing to the fans of the cult fav French farce. THE JESUS ROLLS generally follows the outline of LES VALSEUSES, although with a more sympathetic, better rounded part for Tautou’s Marie.
The major appeal of the original was in the pairing of Depardieu and Dewaere, who were comedy magic. Turturro and Cannavale have some good comic moments but, unsurprisingly, they don’t recapture the same magic. The remake has plenty of nudity and sex scenes, although not particularly graphic, but it is much lighter on the comedy. In the original, the main characters were a pair of juvenile delinquents, which makes more sense for the story than these two middle-aged men. Turturro clearly adores LES VALSEUSES but his film always feels a bit too adoring, like the characters have one foot in the ’70s, with the sexually frigid prostitute subplot and the obsession with ’70s cars. Dark undercurrents in the original are absent now and everything is on the surface. There is a lot of affection for the original film on display but ,despite the best efforts of the cast, the remake does not have the energy or edginess of the French original.
Fans of THE BIG LEBOWSKI can skip this one, although maybe fans of John Turturro or of the French sex farce comedy LES VALSEUSES might take a look. THE JESUS ROLLS is being released on DVD and Blu-Ray on May 5.
RATING: 1 1/2 out of 4 stars