Fans and detractors of Christian movies alike know exactly what to expect from “The Resurrection of Gavin Stone.” All one needs to do is watch 30 seconds of the trailer to feel as if they have a grasp on what beats the story will follow and what the film has to offer as a whole. A film with a talented director or writer would throw in a twist along the way to keep things fresh, but Dallas Jenkins (“What If…”) is apparently much more interested in telling the same story that’s been told a hundred times before without adding anything new to the mix. The result is what may be the most painfully, annoyingly predictable film to have a wide release in quite some time.
“The Resurrection of Gavin Stone” begins with a massive exposition dump designed as a newscast that apparently dedicates a portion of its show every day to a segment about washed-up child stars. By the end of the segment, most viewers should be able to plot out the beats of the character arc of the titular “resurrectee” down to the minute. Again, there aren’t any twists. There’s nothing that may cause anyone to think twice. The film is in the business of taking the easy way out wherever it can, whether in humor, in character, or in story.
From there comes the introduction of Gavin Stone (Brett Dalton, “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”). Dalton showed himself on “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” to be a capable actor, as his character started out as what “MST3K” would have once deemed a “big, brave brick of meat” to the most deliciously evil villain on the show. In “Gavin Stone,” he is inarguably the best part, as he actually makes the more dramatic scenes of the film work to a certain extent, even as he stumbles over the clunky dialogue in the quieter scenes.
He is not alone in this respect — actors struggle with their parts. Again, much of this can be chalked up to the unnatural dialogue, but it feels as if there was a lack of direction, as well. Neil Flynn (“The Middle”), known to many as a talented comedian whose improvisational approach to comedy helped shape NBC comedy “Scrubs,” gets mired in the humorless role of Gavin’s father, which affords him no opportunities for laughs.
On that note, “The Resurrection of Gavin Stone” is officially classified as a dramedy, and considering how often the film pauses after “laugh lines,” apparently to give its audience time to catch their breath, it stands to reason that at some point, something funny should actually happen. Yet over the ninety-two minutes of its runtime, not one joke works. The writers go for the easy joke 10 times out of 10, and as a consequence, every attempt at humor falls flat. There are moments at which it appears to be trying to satirize the different types of people found in an average church, but considering even the leads are never developed beyond those generic stereotypes, the jokes ultimately feel hypocritical.
Even the generic humor pales in comparison to the utter banality of the main story, though. It’s clear from the trailers and it’s clear from the opening moments of the movie, it’s the “liar revealed” plot. It recurs like the plague; all that’s necessary is to put the main character’s name in the all-encompassing mad lib. There’s no thought put into “The Resurrection of Gavin Stone” beyond this initial paint-by-numbers premise, and the movie is consequently unrecommendable. It’s been done before and done better in every way.