This spin-off/remake wastes the iconic character and rolls gutter balls.
“The Big Lebowski” will always be one of the Coen Brothers’ most extraordinary and nostalgic masterpieces of this or any other century. It resonates with fans with its twisted sense of humor, inventive fantasies, and memorable characters.
Unfortunately, I can’t say the same for the spin-off, “The Jesus Rolls,” which John Turturro writes and directs himself as Jesus Quintana, the macho bowler, whose good luck charm is him licking his ball before earning a strike. This movie doesn’t seem to know the meaning of neither comedy nor originality, and relies on too many formulaic elements to make it feel like a cult film. I just heard about Chicago’s Music Box Theater having a “drink-a-long” event for the bomb “Cats,” and as far as I’m concerned, this feels like a drink-a-long.
First of all, Bobby Cannavale as Jesus’ thief friend Petey gets his testicles nearly blown off by a hairdresser (Jon Hamm). It just grazed part of his skin, but it could have been worse. I thought “Hot Tub Time Machine 2” made it clear that the humor of shooting someone in their genitals was over and done with.
Second, the story is bombastic. Jesus is out of jail, he and Petey compete for the affections of a French hairstylist (Audrey Tautou), they steal some cars, vandalize the salon, fool around with another ex-con (Susan Sarandon), and meet her son (Pete Davidson). It’s also apparently based on one of the most controversial French films “Going Places,” which Roger Ebert branded as a bad movie.
And third, I’m glad Jeff Bridges, John Goodman, Steve Buscemi, Julianne Moore, and Sam Elliott had nothing to do with this debacle. They don’t deserve to have their characters tainted, even if the Buscemi character Donny is dead.
“The Jesus Rolls” is a comedy dead zone with no laughs. Maybe I smiled at one scene when Jesus is nearly accused of being a sex offender, after a little boy spots his Johnson in a urinal, and peeves off a father; but I still didn’t laugh. And I certainly wasn’t at all tickled when Tautou has to swat to urine by a family’s car, and when she finally gets her buzz on with the Davidson character. In fact, it’s a waste of her talents. The whole cast is almost down to next to nothing.
The Sarandon character starts off a bit promising with her stern attitude, but she ends up getting erased in a fly swat sort of way. And the chemistry between Tuturro, Cannavale, and Tautou is so depressing, that I wonder how they even agreed to follow up on this screenplay, and Tuturro is the one who wrote and directed it.
Again, “The Big Lebowski” is one of the best movies I’ve ever seen; but “The Jesus Rolls” is one of the most inept.