Jesus (1999)

Okay, so why I picked this particular movie might need a bit of explaining… First off, as I mentioned in the Dead & Breakfast review, I love Mr. Jeremy Sisto. A while ago I was browsing through his IMDB page and saw that he played Jesus–as in the son of God–in a TV miniseries. I had to see it! That was a few years ago, and I finally managed to stumble upon it recently. And I knew I’d have to review it.

The second reason is this is my blog and I can do whatever I want. Consistent themes are for other, more successful people! Probably gonna follow this up with a dinosaur movie directed by a gay porn star! You never know!

Jesus was a two-part TV miniseries that followed the adult life of Jesus. Beyond Jeremy Sisto as Jesus, we also have Gary Oldman as Pontius Pilate, Debra Messing as Mary Magdalene, and enough semi-recognizable faces that I would stop and think, “Is Thomas the Apostle also the geologist from Prometheus?” He was. Anyway, this series covered most of the greatest hits of Jesus’ life: His baptism, being tempted by Satan in the desert, water into wine, the adulteress, the temple temper tantrum, Judas’ betrayal (was not expecting the kiss to be on the lips, but I’m not complaining), Satan tempting Jesus round two, the crucifixion, and the resurrection. And then the movie ends with a cut to the modern day where Jesus–now with shorter hair, but keeping the beard–is embraced by a gaggle of children as a LeAnn Rimes song plays in the background. Turns out the Second Coming happened in 1999!

Since directly adapting scenes from the Bible word-for-word would lead to very short vignettes that don’t really flow, I’ll talk about what the movie adds and what it focuses on. Jeremy Sisto is perfect, no complaints about his acting. Gary Oldman is a treat, and the movie gives him ample opportunity to ham it up. He treats the entire situation like a political game he intends to win with style. In fact, the political aspect of whose jurisdiction Jesus falls under goes on longer than I expected. And over with Satan, they’re a character with knowledge of the future, as their very modern suit and haircut indicates. While tempting Jesus before the crucifixion, they shows Him the horrors that will happen in his name, including the Crusades, the burning of Joan of Arc (thank you to IMDB for telling me who that was because I thought it was a non-specific witch burning), and one of the World Wars. And their temptation in the desert is way more fleshed out than in the Bible, bringing Jesus to a group of (modern day) refugees and trying to guilt Him into feeding them. That’s way better than, “I bet you could fly if you jumped from this building,” which did not appear in the movie.

However, the movie also makes some… interesting choices. No one tries to hide their natural accent, so John the Baptist is Scottish. The cast is filled with white guys playing Jewish people, but has the actors with darker skin generally playing the villains (notably Herod, Caiaphas, and an asshole tax collector). And Debra Messing is not very good here, acting more like she’s hungover while mourning the death of Jesus. She also has a weird diamond tattoo on her forehead, and I have no idea what that means; trying to look it up I kept running into Sakura from Naruto, but I’m pretty sure that’s a dead end. All in all it’s a decent Bible adaptation, but one of the far too many that features a very white cast retelling an ancient Middle Eastern story. To quote the philosopher Huey Freeman, “Jesus was black, Ronald Reagan was the Devil, and the government is lying about 9/11.”

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