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Stream It or Skip It?

From the Sure, Why Not? Files comes The Jesus Rolls, a Big Lebowski spinoff/Going Places remake, now streaming via Showtime. John Turturro writes and directs, resurrecting his character Jesus Quintana, who you no doubt remember as the flamboyant shit-talking sex-offender bowling-league rival of the Dude, Walter and (STFU) Donny. You know, “You don’t f— with the Jesus,” and all that. Well, he’s back, the Jesus is, for his solo adventure, and if this is the official expansion of the Big Lebowski Cinematic Universe, let it be known that I’d love to script The Further Misadventures of the Nihilists.

The Gist: A prison. Spanish guitar. A man doing pull-ups. A zipper on a jumpsuit. The Jesus is free — but first, he chats with the warden, I dunno why, other than because he’s played by Christopher Walken. We flash back to the infamous “pederast” scene referred to in Lebowski, and learn his offense was more innocent than assumed, thus allowing us to maybe like him instead of loathe him. It had to be done, lest the entire movie exist on shaky ground.

So Jesus leaves prison and is picked up by his best pal Petey (Bobby Cannavale), setting in motion a series of arbitrary events that could only happen when two men very comfortable with petty crime follow no particular plot or plan. Getting a job or finding a place to live isn’t even mentioned, nor is what Petey was doing before all this. It just doesn’t matter. Jeopardy on a scale of featherweight to heavy-featherweight follows, and of course it’s studded with cameos from celeb cast members who seem like they dropped by the set to see friends and ended up with a bit part on a lark.

Jesus and Petey happen upon a muscle car and they jimmy the ignition and take it. A few joyrides later, they return it, and find its owner, a hairdresser played by Jon Hamm, none too pleased and brandishing a revolver. Stupidity then occurs, and Petey gets shot in the ass but they make off with Marie (Audrey Tautou), the hairdresser’s shampoo girl, prostitute and/or girlfriend maybe, who knows for sure, should we give an eff and does it really even matter? Doubtful. At first, the plot seems like it might be a revenge thing for Petey taking a bullet in the glute, but that would require some focus on the part of these characters, and then, it likely wouldn’t involve the Jesus’ mother played by Sonia Braga, an odd woman fresh from incarceration played by Susan Sarandon, or her son, also fresh from incarceration, played by Pete Davidson. It all adds up to something, or nothing, I’m not quite sure, but it’s definitely one of those things.

THE JESUS ROLLS MOVIE
Photo: Everett Collection

What Movies Will It Remind You Of?: Roger Ebert once called Blue in the Face a “footnote” of Smoke, more than a spinoff. The Jesus Rolls has a similar relationship to The Big Lebowski. It also makes a direct Amelie reference, because why else would you cast Tautou in a goof of a comedy film?

Performance Worth Watching: Tautou is charming as a character whose lone trait is that she’s never had an orgasm. Her cheery blankness is effervescent.

Memorable Dialogue: “WE’RE JUST TWO SIMPLE F—HEADS!” — the Jesus doth protest too much

Sex and Skin: Turturro and Cannavale’s butts, Tautou topless, some strong and strangely unsexy schtuppery.

Our Take: As the Dude abides, the Jesus rolls, and it really is true, he just rolls on no matter what happens or he makes happen, seemingly without a single lick of intent or forethought. It’s a carefree existence and that’s the whole point, which might make The Jesus Rolls hard to hang with, it being an utterly plotless farce of light robbery and casual coitus, no boundaries, no rules. Maybe not having a point actually is the point. “This is very… freewheeling,” I thought while watching the film, and before I knew it, an actual free wheel was rolling across the screen, liberated from its axle.

Notably, half the movie occurs before the Jesus tongues a bowling ball, because seeing the man do what he does best functions as a metaphor, and such money shots should be deployed sparingly. What the metaphor is for is beyond me, although I’m pretty sure there’s a metaphor there. At least I hope there is. There very well may not be one, but I will insist there is, because I want there to be one even if I’m not sure of it. Is this how religion works?

Anyhow, enjoy the Jesus’ finest moves again, and the ’60s-via-the-’90s sensibility, and the dilly-dallying and screwing-about that happens in this what-the-hell-is-Susan-Sarandon-doing-in-THIS-movie movie about two fellas (and sometimes a woman) who misfit their way through life and don’t seem to have any traditional sensibilities about feelings and laws, although they don’t want anyone to die. After all, they might represent little more than nothing, but they’re not nihilists.

Our Call: SKIP IT. The movie will definitely compel hardcore Lebowskites to watch it, and I understand that. But if something is anything less than a trifle, The Jesus Rolls is definitely it.

John Serba is a freelance writer and film critic based in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Read more of his work at johnserbaatlarge.com or follow him on Twitter: @johnserba.

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