Oh, The Humanity! The Jesus Rolls

the jesus rolls indexA spin-off featuring The Big Lebowski’s Jesus (John Turturro), this feels something of a vanity project as Turturro has written and directed this film and expanded upon the character, and too much of the time it features various men and women seemingly madly in love with the man even though it’s hard to see why. Supposedly based on the 1974 French film Les Valseuses, it’s reportedly all but a shot for shot remake in places though it’s toned down considerably and thankfully doesn’t contain the many rape scenes in that grim movie.

When the project was announced it raised a few eyebrows as in The Big Lebowski it’s suggested that Jesus is a sex offender and perhaps even a paedophile, but the film addresses this in the opening couple of minutes as Jesus is talking to the prison warden (Christopher Walken, wasted) before leaving prison, listing a number of crimes including the sex offender thing where we see a flashback which suggests it was an extremely unfair accusation, and all that happened was that at a urinal a young boy complimented Jesus on his penis size, Jesus responded casually about needing special underwear, and the boy’s father emerged from a cubicle looking somewhat appalled.

When out of prison Jesus is picked up by his good friend Petey (Bobby Cannavale) and the two head off in what’s a very thinly drawn plot, they steal some cars, annoy some men, have sex with some women, and, well, repeat that over and over again until you wander if the film is actually going to have an ending of any sort. It doesn’t, either, there’s a vague moment where the results of their actions early on have a pay off but the film ends with a big question mark over what might happen next.

Turturro in interviews compares Jesus and Petey to Don Quixote and Sancho Panza but these are far, far less compelling characters. Turturro mocks the absurdity of their macho behaviour at times but we still a number of women throw themselves at the duo, and the number of threesomes in the film feels quite odd. After they steal the car of hairdresser Paul Dominique (Jon Hamm, in a pointless cameo) they meet up with old friend Marie (Audrey Tautou), though they get annoyed with her after a bit, and then later on return to her, and she never seems to care about how badly she’s treated. A number of other well known types also have cameos, Susan Sarandon pops up as a morose ex-con, J.B. Smoove as another bloody Jesus loving friend, and as mentioned Christopher Walken’s the prison warden, but only Sarandon’s character is of any interest.

It’s not completely without merit, there’s the odd funny moment or scene, Jesus and Petey pathetically riding away on stolen bikes is a cute shot, while Marie being bored senseless at the men’s efforts to sexually please her raised a smirk, as did SNL star Pete Davidson turning up as the world’s worst robber. But all too often it just feels pointless, the many various sex scenes exist only to suggest that some men are selfish in bed, and the bickering between Jesus and Petey is largely dull and far less amusing than the film thinks it is.

These are arrogant characters who find themselves hilarious but I really didn’t, and the “Nobody fucks with Jesus” catchphrase is trotted out a few times too often (ie more than once). Turturro knows what he’s doing behind the camera and the film is sometimes attractive to look at, and everyone turns in strong performances with Sarandon and Tautou especially good, but the script is so weak and has so little to say that hasn’t been said countless times before that it’s a film which feels like it has no reason to exist.

★1/2

Alex Finch.
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