The Coen Brothers’ hilarious 1998 cult classic about mistaken identity and deceit, “The Big Lebowski”, is given a loose updating and spin-off with “The Jesus Rolls”, a frenzied, unremarkable remake to the 1974 Bertrand Blier French film “Going Places”. John Turturro is certainly having fun with his film here, sadly the movie rarely translates into any big laughter or successful wit, “The Jesus Rolls” ends up becoming very insubstantial and even embarrassing.
Turturro reprises his famous Jesus character from “The Big Lebowski”, a petty thief, who gets in trouble after misunderstanding in a bathroom with a teenage boy after starting conversation. Remember when the characters in “The Big Lebowski” refer to Jesus as a “Pederast”? The timeline to this film is very unclear. Could it be set just after “The Big Lebowski” during the 90s? Or does it take place in the modern era? We often never see cell phones or modern technology, but at time we see modern cars and Turturro looks much older now.
Jesus is eventually released out of jail, in which he reconnects with his close friend Petey (Bobby Cannavale). They end up stealing the car of a hairdresser (Jon Hamm), which ends up leaving Petey shot and wounded in the leg. A French escort named Marie (Audrey Tautou) ends up tagging along with them, and all three of them end up having a “Jules et Jim” sort of rendezvous in which Marie claims she never had an orgasm.
While on the run from the police, Jesus and Petey end up abandoning Marie at a restaurant and pick up Jean (Susan Sarandon), who was just released out of prison. After an intimate encounter, Jean ends up parting ways with the two men. They end up reconnecting with Marie and another prisoner (Pete Davidson) who satisfies Marie’s sexual impulses. This leads to the prisoner committing another act of violence which sends Jesus, Pete, and Marie on the run again by stealing another car.
While Turturro stole a few scenes in “The Big Lebowski” as Jesus Quintana, the bowler who was rowdy and comical. Turturro re-invents the character to baffling numbers by just making a film about a ménage trio, which consists of aimless and un-passionate sex, boredom, and crime. Nothing ever feels too much at stake, and the film never truly gets anywhere as it meanders around with its aimless structure and narrative.
During the third act, the story shifts to a cottage inn. Marie reunites with Petey and Jesus, and Marie ends up finding a strong attraction with Jesus’s son, who was also released out of prison. She finally has her long awaited orgasm that she is always yearned for. The shots and colors are very yellow and luminous, the comedy and material begins to evolve artistically and stylistically. Though by the end the movie loses anything substantial. There is a symphony of repeated notes up until then, the film repeats a lot of the same elements as it never hits the hilarity and freshness of “The Big Lebowski”.
The farce is always interrupted by passion and intimacy that never feels intoxicating or elegant. “The Jesus Rolls” is indignant and far less fun and deeper than “The Big Lebowski”, while it does offer some wit and bounce, it never traffics any of the same ideas of its predecessor, there is no social or political content to be pronounced. In fact, there is very little laughter or even charm, the film feels like a early draft to a screenplay that is trapped in cinematic limbo. Sadly, “The Jesus Rolls” becomes an unwarranted and unnecessary exercise movie that just wonders in its aimlessness.