John Turturro's Big Lebowski spinoff The Jesus Rolls goes right into the gutter

click to enlarge The Jesus is back. That's not such a good thing.
The Jesus is back. That's not such a good thing.

Maybe you've heard that somebody made a sequel to Joel and Ethan Coen's beloved The Big Lebowski and that it focuses on libidinous bowler Jesus Quintana. But this new film, The Jesus Rolls, turns out to be as much a Lebowski sequel as those Stella Artois ads starring Jeff Bridges as the Dude. It's an incidental spinoff, and a middling one at that.

It also wasn't made by just any somebody: It's a long-in-gestation passion project for John Turturro, who wrote and directed and reprises his role as the mythic Jesus, complete with implacable accent, waist-length braids, purple bowling shoes and a matching acrylic nail on his pinkie. As the film opens, Jesus is getting out of prison for the umpteenth time, and he's met on the outside by his buddy Pete (Bobby Canavale).

Within minutes, they've stolen a rich hairdresser's sportscar and embark on an aimless joyride, shoplifting, breaking into houses and robbing people at gunpoint with no destination in particular.

Turturro lifted this shaggy plot from Bertrand Blier's scandalous 1974 film Going Places, a French arthouse hit that stirred up controversy for treating rapists and criminals as loveable rogues in a breezy pastoral comedy. Luckily, Turturro sidesteps most of the original film's truly poisonous misogyny, though not all of it. It does, however, retain the distinctly European homoeroticism of its predecessor, a potentially provocative element that, like everything in this movie, dead ends.

As with most sketch characters that have gotten their own films, the Jesus proves less amusing the more time we spend with him; his relatively short screen time in the Coens' original film likely contributed to his cult status in the first place. This new film's tenuous connection to Lebowski is most likely the reason it has been released, but it's also its biggest stumbling block, because it creates expectations that Turturro simply can't meet.

Is it worth streaming? Although it might be a worthwhile curiosity for Lebowski completists, you're better off watching the original film for the millionth time.

Available as a 99-cent rental on YouTube and Amazon Prime

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About The Author

Nathan Weinbender

Nathan Weinbender is the Inlander's Music & Film editor. He is also a film critic for Spokane Public Radio, where he has co-hosted the weekly film review show Movies 101 since 2011.