- Running time:
- 106 minutes
- Marshall Allman -
- Claire Holt -
- Tania Raymonde -
- Justin Welborn -
- The Pope
- Eric Lange -
- The Hobo
It isn't likely to land many converts, but Blue Like Jazz (2 1/2 stars out of four; opens today; rated PG-13) is just earnest enough to blend its religious theme with a beer-chugging hero for a surprisingly contemporary look at faith.
Based on Donald Miller's best-seller about his struggles with Christianity, Jazz distinguishes itself by creating a young protagonist filled with doubts — that he's willing to act on.
Marshall Allman plays Don, the son of an evangelical mother (Jenny Littleton) and a deadbeat atheist dad (an effective Eric Lange). Worried that his son will be brainwashed at a Christian college, he enrolls him at the liberal Reed College in Portland, Ore. Hoping to look beyond his Texas Baptist upbringing, Don agrees.
The movie establishes a nice tone early on, when father and son discuss the merits of college: Dad worries that his son will join a cult. Son reminds him that while Dad was skipping child support, the church was donating food and clothes. It's not a theological debate, but a touching exchange between a father and son who will never see eye-to-eye.
The film comes off track a little when Don arrives on campus, where he's greeted with free condoms and lectures about the hazards of bottled water. Director Steve Taylor, who did the 2006 Christian-themed film The Second Chance, paints college as a cafeteria of vice, run by good kids lost in a grown-up world.
But some of the talks Don has with fellow students, particularly about feeling like an outcast because he believes in Jesus, ring true. The film even glances (albeit fleetingly) at the sexual abuses roiling the Catholic church.
Make no mistake: This is a Christian movie with Jesus as an uncredited executive producer. The doubters depicted are either narrow-minded or priest-abuse victims. Christianity, not Islam, not Judaism, not Buddhism, is the sole path. One academic atheist tells students that since there is no God, a math book should provide them all the answers they need.
The swipes aren't necessary, as Allman (True Blood, Prison Break) does a more than capable job of playing the believer with suspicions. His conflict, amplified by the sudden availability of sex and booze, doesn't need an addendum.
Still, give film credit for acknowledging another side exists. Don gets a little preachy by the film's finale, but Jazz is one of those rare Christian-based films that classifies its followers as a "subset" of American society, one that's often ridiculed. While Jazz occasionally takes the bully pulpit, the film hits its stride when it's living modestly for a cause, not dying loudly for one.
Movie theaters and showtimes for Blue Like Jazz in Indianapolis.