Movie Review

Jesus

MPAA Rating: Not Rated (made for TV)

Reviewed by: Paul T. Andersen
CONTRIBUTOR

Good
Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
All Ages
Genre:
Historical Drama
Length:
4 hrs.
Year of Release:
2000
USA Release:
_____
copyrighted
Relevant Issues
Jacqueline Bisset as Mary in “Jesus”
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RECOMMENDED VIDEO—“How Jesus Died: The Final 18 Hours”—A captivating presentation of the comprehensive medical, forensic and historical facts of the Crucifixion of Jesus Christ. More Info

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RECOMMENDED VIDEO - Jesus: The Movie
Featuring: Jeremy Sisto, Gary Oldman, Jacqueline Bisset, Armin Mueller-Stahl, David O’Hara, Jeroen Krabbe, Debra Messing
Director: Roger Young
Producer: Lorenzo Minoli, Judd Parkin
Distributor: CBS Television

This secular, made-for-TV mini-series is available on video and was originally broadcast by CBS in mid-May 2000 in the U.S. and during the Easter season in Australia. Better than most secular attempts to portray Jesus Christ’s life and ministry, this two part series dramatizes Christ’s early years with Mary and Joseph, and ends with a condensed summary of his ministry, his death and resurrection. Unfortunately, in an unnecessary attempt to make the story more interesting or filmic, the producers decided to mix fact with fiction. This is a dangerous thing to do when dealing with God’s Holy Word and some of the most important events in history. The resulting Jesus is not an accurate portrayal of the Jesus Christ of the Bible, although similar in many ways. The main emphasis is on the humanity of Jesus. This movie does not do as well with his true, divine character.

John 1:1-5 reveals that Jesus Christ, the second person of the Trinity, was the Creator of the universe. He existed before the elements. He created Adam from dust. The real Jesus said, “I Am,” and people fell to the ground knowing what those unique words meant.

Christ’s divinity is obscured in this film, if not subtly denied. Although the producers attempt to portray the life of Christ, they avoid presenting all the necessary elements of the Gospel. This fictionalized Jesus appears to die to prove God’s love, not to take the punishment for our sins and to provide the only door to salvation.

This made-for-TV Jesus doesn’t quite understand who he is or what he is supposed to do until near the end. His death is amazingly quick, while the real Jesus died a horrifying and excruciating death over many hours. When confronted by a Gentile woman begging for his help, this fictional Jesus changes his mind and says “this woman has taught me that my message is for the Gentiles, too.” He has a romantic interest in Mary (sister of Martha) and considers marrying her. He has no siblings (a nod to the Catholic church which teaches that his mother Mary was a perpetual virgin; the real Jesus had brothers). He is baptized by John the Baptist in ankle deep water by sprinkling, rather than immersion. The crippled man he heals has to be helped to walk afterwards because his atrophied muscles are weak and painful. When the real Jesus healed people, the healing was complete and they danced for joy.

Except for two short scenes, this film is quite morally clean, and promotes love, self-sacrifice and trust in God. The exception is when the prostitute Mary Magdalene is unnecessarily shown nude and implied to be in the act of sex (at one point shown standing fully nude from the side). It is also unfortunate that Jacqueline Bisset who plays a very prominent role in this film (as Mary the mother of Jesus), starred just a few weeks earlier in a made-for-TV movie called “Sex and Mrs. X”.

Jesus is depicted as generally scruffy in appearance, but very likeable and attractive to people. Two interesting, partially-fictional scenes attempt to show how Satan may have tempted Jesus. These scenes are fairly credible and insightful.

Although this movie has good elements, we don’t recommend it. A better choice is the film “Jesus” distributed by Campus Crusade (The Jesus Project). Its words are taken line for line from Luke’s Gospel and painstaking attention to biblical and historical accuracy. More info


Viewer Comments
This film was not much of a Scriptural portrayal of the Son of God to be sure, but after offerings such as “Last Temptation of Christ” this was a breath of fresh air. There WAS no relationship between Jesus and Mary in a romantic sense. The movie did emphasize His humanity at the expense of His Deity. It was nice for a Hollywood production, but better Jesus films include the classic “King of Kings” and “Greatest Story Ever Told,” as well as the more recent “Matthew”, “Miracle Maker”, and “Jesus” by Campus Crusade. One more thing: I am a member of a conservative Presbyterian church. There ARE Christians (Presbyterians, Lutherans, Methodists, Episcopals, etc.) like myself who believe Jesus WAS baptised by sprinking, and the NT speaks of the Israelites being “baptised” while going through the Red Sea, yet only the Egyptians were immersed! John the Baptist calls his baptism by water like the baptism of the Holy Spirit and fire… but the Spirit is poured out on us—we are not immersed in Him. To assume that immersion is the only proper way is to be ignorant of the Scriptures. My Ratings: [3/3]
—J. T. Tate
…many things stuck out to me. …Jesus seemed not to know why he was special (he always knew according to the bible). He knew his heavenly Father. It seemed that Joseph and Mary had to push him out of their home helping him to see his mission. He knew when it was time and went to follow his father’s will. I found the romance absurd! Jesus may have been tempted toward women (people are)… It makes me sad to think that non-christians watched this and wondered if this was what Jesus was like… No wonder people have questions as to Jesus’ credibility. For those people, I have to refer them to “More than a Carpenter” by Josh McDowell.
—Anonymous, age 26
…the true gospel has been twisted in recent years. It seems that the producers wanted to create a “universal” Jesus, not necessarily (or at all) a Christian one. The “Jesus” of this movie talks little of repentance, but is sadly degraded to the “God is love” and nothing else… He also seems extremely confused about His own mission. I don’t think that this is the Jesus of the gospels. Furthermore, the movie had some rather steamy sexual innuendo in it concerning Mary Magdeline (not terrible, but a big surprise with a Jesus movie). With all of that said, the movie did have some redeeming values. The confrontation between the devil and Jesus was superb, Oldman is great as Pilate and the movie did take you back to the time and place of Christ (on a side note, it also had a great and moving score). Yet, in closing, Christians must be adamant about emphasizing that Christ is the Christ of the gospels and not some new age, universalists guy… None of the main actors were Christian and the guy who played Jesus (Jeremy Sisto) has “Buddhist leanings” (TV Guide). Anyway, as these other reviewers have said, if you want to see a true Jesus film try “Jesus of Nazareth” or the Campus Crusade “Jesus” film (my favorite is “Greatest Story Ever Told” although the guy playing Jesus ain’t a Christian). My Ratings: [2½/5]
—Adam Stokes, age 19
I approached this mini series with great enthusiasm after having read numerous “positive” reviews on the film. We were very pleased to see Jesus smiling, dancing, laughing, crying, thirsty, playful, serious, concerned, hurt, etc., as opposed to a man floating five feet above the ground with a halo around his head. It is obvious that they were trying to show the “human” of Jesus. Even though this was a breath of fresh air for a film on the life of Jesus, there was enough inaccuracy to not get our approval. …why the provocative scenes with Mary Magdalene? …explain the scene where Jesus asks John the Baptist “what must I do to be baptized?” To which John replies, “confess your sins and repent.” Was it not John who asked Jesus to baptize him because he did not feel worthy? (Matthew 3:14) I serve a perfect, spotless, Lamb of God. Not an imperfect human until He was baptized. (I Peter 1:19)… I am not disappointed in Hollywood for putting out this rendition of Jesus. I am disappointed in the reviews written by Christians claiming the movie to be the “most accurate” movie on the life of Jesus they have ever seen. They must have forgotten the “minor” inaccuracy on Jesus being portrayed to have sinned. The cinematography and musical score were both very good. But if you want to make a movie based on the Bible, based on the words of the Lord, expect to be held accountable to the source. In this case, the bad outweighs the good. And if you disagree, try explaining to an unbeliever how Jesus really was perfect, but the movie just took “artistic license.” My Ratings: [2½/4]
—Matthew DeJesus, age 23
Part one only: I was really disappointed by this production. Jeremy Sisto was too young, emotionally and spiritually, to portray the depth of Jesus Christ. There were also many concepts inconsistent with the Bible. For example, the movie suggested that he did not seem to know his mission in life as well as his mother did, who encouraged him to remember his Heavenly Father after Joseph died. The Gospels make it clear that Jesus knew what his Heavenly Father wanted him to do as early as 12 years of age. That a Catholic priest was a consultant for this movie became apparent to me in the theology communicated. Biblical Scriptures should not be modified, and they were. I did not watch the second part because of the many liberties taken with the Holy Bible. My Ratings: [4/4]
—Halyna, age 54
I didn’t think much of the movie from the beginning. Joseph is portrayed as always skeptical and doubting. I don’t even know who that Roman historian was supposed to be. The miracles seemed almost phony, such as Mary and a servant being the only witnesses to water to wine. The movie seemed made for non-christians, with all the miracles being shown to be questionable. That ankle deep water for baptism was ridiculous. For a movie that was to be about Jesus, very little scripture was quoted. The devil looked and acted like a mafia leader in his modern 3-piece suit, very unbelievable. My Ratings: [3/2]
—Carol Wilbur, age 36
I don’t think Jesus actually dreamt of WWI sufferers screaming out his name. And what’s up with that temptation scene where the devil is some white guy with a buzz cut, dressed in a suit flying all over the world? I also don’t really like the actor who portrays Jesus, I found his deep voice to be annoying. I’m glad they didn’t show that deleted scene where Jesus goes walking in present day Italy and then a whole bunch of kids run up to him… My Ratings: [2½/5]
—G.D., age 20
How much longer must the public suffer with a lilly white man portraying Jesus? One would think that in this modern age of racial and cultural diversity, that an appropriate person could be found. If someone would take the TIME to look in the Scriptures, and many other historic records, it would come to LIGHT that Jesus was of DARK skin and had WOOLY hair. I have nothing against the actors. As a matter of fact, I adore Gary Oldham, but the whole production turned SOUR in my mind when the previews showed Jesus as being Caucasian. As an African American, I thought perhaps I was alone in my view on this matter. This was definitely not true. Some of my Irish, Jewish, Scottish, Assyrian, Hispanic, Caucasian and other African American family members and friends were EXTREMELY disgusted. If this production was made sixty years ago in Hollywood, I would expect Jesus to be lilly white but, this is not the case…
—A. Davis and C. Hughes, age 46
I enjoyed this more than I thought I would. I was very pleased with the way Jesus was portrayed. His humanity was explored and as we know, Jesus was completely human AND completely divine. I think his humanity is often ignored. I had no problem with Jesus in this movie saying that he had to die to prove God’s love. I think that he did die to prove God’s love. Isn’t that part of dying to take our punishment? That proves God’s love. The thing that I objected to in this movie was the way that it rushed through the end. The rest of the movie explored parts of Jesus’ life through interesting and emotionally moving scenes. The last supper scene was played “by rote.” There was nothing unique about it. It played the same as in every other Jesus movie. I also objected to the “famous works of art” scenes. When will a movie or play about Jesus quit showing all of the men at the Last Supper sitting on one side of a table? And, with the way that the movie showed the importance of women as Jesus’ disciples I was surprised that they did not show women present at the Last Supper. Finally, the most blatant “famous works of art” scene was the recreation of “Pieta”. I thought that the way that Mary was shown holding Jesus on her lap as in the famous statue was totally false and staged. It was not at all in keeping with the spirit of the rest of the movie. One last thing. It didn’t bother me to think that Jesus might have had a girlfriend. Or that a woman might have been interested in being his girlfriend. I objected to making Mary, sister of Martha, that woman. It puts a different spin on why she sat at his feet listening to him while Martha worked. All in all, I really enjoyed this movie. It just got a little too “Hollywood” at times. My Ratings: [4½/3½]
—Mary Anne Craine, age 40
I was actually bored with the first hour of the movie. I was thrilled however to see Jesus displaying joy and a sense of horseplay at times. The scenes that really played well were the temptation scenes with Satan. The thrust of what the devil was trying to tell Jesus with him dying only to further division and not unification was an interesting angle that a lot of people haven’t dealt with. I wouldn’t recommend this as an evangelism tool, but as an alternative to most of what goes on. We can’t expect Hollywood to get God right when half the time they don’t even know his existence. Let us just take what we can from all this… My Ratings: [4/3½]
—Sue, age 29
…Jeremy Sisto’s Jesus is not so inspiring. Here we see how Jesus dealt with the romantic interests of the young women in his neighborhood, and how he dealt with family pressures and social interactions. In short, this is a very human Jesus—perhaps too human. He’s able to turn water into wine, yes, but only reluctantly, and he doesn’t appear to really know what he’s doing. He’s stumbling into the ministry—not really thinking he can make much of a difference. Indeed, when his stepfather Joseph dies, Jesus tries to raise him from the dead, and wrestles with God’s will in the matter, saying he can’t go on alone… I was inspired by his humanity. Jesus wears no halo here. He’s seen drinking wine with the best of them, and dancing vigorously at parties. He has issues with his parents and sexual temptations… At times, however, the authors choose to stray a bit too far from the record. When Jesus asks John the Baptist to baptize him for instance, rather than exclaiming “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” as in Mat. 3:14, John says “if you will confess your sins…”. We do not see Jesus confessing any sins, but when a few moments later John exclaims “behold the Lamb of God…” I wondered why he said it to the troubled, sin-laden Jesus he had been conversing with a moment before. To sum up, if you’re looking for a depiction of Jesus which is inspires awe and worship, with top-quality performances and majestic scenery, see Franco Zepherelli’s “Jesus of Nazareth.” If you want a boiled-down evangelistic film, see Campus Crusade’s “Jesus” film. If you want a fully human Jesus, who would be as at home with the cast of “Friends” as with Peter, James and John, see Lorenzo Minoli’s latest effort. My Ratings: [2½/3]
—Timothy Blaisdell, age 36
Very misleading and scripturally incorrect.
—Linda Farrell, age 42
…After seeing Part 1 (of the two-part series), I considered this version the best movie about Jesus I have yet to see. Best judged by criteria weighted toward being enjoyable and credible to unbelievers. Though Jesus Himself spoke weighty words and incisive truth, he was attractive to people, unlike we modern believers. So this unauthorized version of a Jesus movie has a lot to show us, while interesting a new lost generation in looking for the real Jesus… Scenes are believable (until near the end) and accurate enough for a movie, though often seem to compress a few events into one… Part 2 still has some excellent insights—e.g. the surprise in Jesus’ Gethsemene prayer. But it disappoints after an impressive first part… [this version is] better than some previous movies’ almost Papal-style Saviours, (excuse the purposely reverse imagery) unemotively floating about, blessing perpetually amazed mortals… Jesus’ temptations by Satan, since unseen by gospel writers, were reasonably allowed cinematic free rein, but meaning was unclouded. …The show’s typical style gave human realism to vignettes of Jesus’ life, but the historical compression was detracting in many areas: most notably in the resurrection—shown in immunization dose only. The film “lost it” there, and a previously fairly gutsy story faded with a whimper (though it was lovely and sweet). My Ratings: [4/4]
—Dr. Ian Truscott