Hollywood's 2014 religious renaissance commences with this clumsy New Testament condensation of the History Channel's 10-hour miniseries "The Bible," produced by reality TV mogul Mark Burnett and his wife, actress Roma Downey.
"In the beginning was the Word," gospel scribe John (Sebastian Knapp) begins, quickly zipping through the tales of Adam and Eve, Noah and Abraham until the Christ child is born to Mary (Roma Downey) in Bethlehem. Reflections on his formative years have been deleted, particularly Jesus' temptation in the wilderness, reportedly because the actor (Mehdi Ouazzani) portraying Satan was said to resemble President Obama. So the story really starts as Jesus (Diego Morgado) launches his ministry, calling forth his disciples at the Sea of Galilee. Exuding beatific compassion, Jesus heals a paralytic, walks on water and feeds 5,000 hungry followers. When he arrives in Jerusalem, Jesus exposes the symbiotic relationship between despotic Roman prefect Pontius Pilate (Greg Hicks) and the Jewish high priest Caiaphas (Adrian Schiller), turning over the tables of the money-changers in the temple.
Earnestly blending the efforts of four screenwriters and three directors, including Christopher Spencer, is no easy task, so it's not surprising that this banal, distilled biopic seems fragmented and dispassionate, trivializing parables to one-liners, leading up to the Crucifixion, Resurrection and Revelation.
Unfortunately, Portuguese model-turned-actor Morgado's performance is so charmless and bland that it's difficult to comprehend his character's charismatic effect on his supporters, even if he's billed as "the first Latin Jesus."
Specifically designed not to offend, this sermon-tainment has been endorsed by prominent Christian pastors Rick Warren, T.D. Jakes and Sam Rodriguez, along with Abraham Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League, who calls it "the antidote to the poison that `The Passion of the Christ' became." Yet it suffers terribly when compared with Scorsese's "The Last Temptation of Christ" and/or Pasolini's "The Gospel According to St. Matthew."
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "Son of God" is a faith-based 5, aimed at a church-driven audience
wof true believers. Still to come: Darren Aronofsky's "Noah" and Ridley Scott's "Exodus."