Johnny Starr, fresh out of seminary and away from his worldly Las Vegas past, is ready to take the ministry world by storm. Accompanied by his adoptive mother, he journeys from Atlanta to upstate New York to pastor an ethnic church, Jubilee Hall, as a white man. Little does anyone know that his “special gifts,” i.e. dancing to Bible songs in an Elvis suit, will soon take the area by storm and bring more people to Christ! But he’ll have to watch out for the local corrupt white rich pastor and his banker friends who want to steal Jubilee Hall’s land for themselves. Who will prevail in the end—the obnoxious obviously-not-Southern knock-off televangelist and his cronies or the awkward dancing Elvis impersonator and his band of ragtag church folk?
Production Quality (Johnny Starr)
We are unsure as to how this ‘production’ actually came to be, as it feels like a tiny church project with a pathetic budget. Production quality is so low that it begs the question of the necessity of even making this ‘movie.’ It’s far too obvious that one camera is used, and it doesn’t even produce good video quality. Sets and locations are extremely cheap and limited. Audio quality is mostly bad and scenes are usually hard to hear because of the ridiculously childish homemade soundtrack that loudly blares innovative tunes such as ‘Johnny Starr, Double N, Double R,’ ‘Here Comes the Rev,’ and other screeching choir numbers. There are several scenes in which different choirs are showcased without studio touchups and it’s a grating experience. As for editing, much of this ‘film’ is hard to understand with constant jumps in time, missing information, awkward transitions, and that constantly incessant noise called a soundtrack. Therefore, when we step back from this ‘production,’ we are incredulous and really don’t know what to else to say about this viewing experience.
Plot and Storyline Quality (Double N)
Plot? Does that exist in Johnny Starr’s alternate universe of stupid white men dancing to children’s music in ethnic churches? Does anything logical or coherent exist when he dances (literally) his way into pastoral ordination? Somewhere in between information dump dialogue and unexplainable interactions between offbeat characters, a touch of satire can possibly be detected. We either have to believe that The Rev is a satire or a sad show of utter incompetence. And that’s just the first fifteen minutes of the film. I haven’t even gone into detail about the ridiculously childish and amateurish ‘villain’ (or Donald Trump impersonator) with the most painfully slow drawling fake Southern accent and his sidekick Chaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaarlie. Or Junk Dog and his sidekick, who are searching for ‘Elvis’. Or the ‘evil’ banker woman. Or the racially stereotyped convenience store owner. Or the extremely awkward church secretary. And what’s with the incoherent elderly men who appear to be telling the story? In general, there are too many unexplainable and unbelievable elements to this plot than we have room to discuss. The things that happen in the ‘plot’ are not based in reality. For example, one minute somebody’s talking, then they’re singing. One moment, a character is evil, then they immediately become good after witnessing someone else do something good. One minute things are going horribly wrong due to a failed choir practice, then people are dancing around, rapping, and playing instruments and boom boxes. In short, we could discuss for days the true nature of this ‘plot’, but we must reprieve for now and consider that some things just don’t have explanations.
Acting Quality (Double R)
Johnny Starr, who is sort of portrayed as a hero character who stands up for the little guy, comes off as very unsure of himself due to awful acting on the part of movie creator John Petritz. We are all for casting little known actors, but casting local church folk and throwing them to the wolves with no coaching is a terrible idea. The crew spent more time on intricate Elvis props and costuming than on coaching the amateur cast members. Emotions are cartoonish and line delivery is either awkward or forced. Also, movie creators need to think twice about having actors and actresses sing live musical pieces in the middle of the movie. Just sayin’.
Our impromptu rating change for The Rev was no accident. This film is in a class all by itself, to the point in which it feels like a giant April Fool’s joke. We’re not sure whether or not to feel sorry for the production team or to laugh at their attempt at a satire. This ‘musical’ experience watches like a children’s cartoon movie, which could better explain the constant leaps in logic and reality-defying decisions. Since cartoon films do not fit into our normal ratings system, we have opted for a special rating. There is little else we can say for this film except that if you want a good laugh, see if you can find yourself a copy, because you won’t soon forget the experience.
Final Rating: Johnny Starr, Double N, Double R