A modern-day version of the gospels, opening with John the Baptist calling a disparate group of young New Yorkers from their workaday lives to follow and learn from Jesus. They form a roving acting troupe that enacts the parables through song and dance, comedy, and mime. Jesus’ ministry ends with a last supper, his Crucifixion in a junkyard, and, the following morning, his body being carried aloft by his apostles back into the world of the living on the streets of New York.
This film is basically a rock opera, based on the Broadway play. Although the actors quote a lot of scripture in the film, there are moments that will make some believers cringe. One of these is when Jesus (Victor Garber) speaks of turning the other cheek, and one of his followers starts to say “Oh J.C.” in a curse until a woman slaps a hand over his mouth before he completes the last name of Jesus. Based on the Gospel According to St. Matthew, “Godspell” tells the story of the last seven days of Christ’s life. Christ himself wears clown make-up and a Superman-like “S” on his chest.
Another one of those “cringe” moments is when a woman calls to Jesus in a Mae West voice and then quotes scripture. When Jesus speaks of people walking in blindness, a character places hands over her eyes, then says, “I couldn’t see because I had my eyes closed.” It is difficult to know whether this joke is meant to seriously illustrate the biblical truth or to simply make fun. Another example of the “humor” is when it is stated the prodigal son was in a “pinch” and there is a scene of a man being pinched on the nose by a crab.
The actors are basically likable and there are some good songs including one titled “Day by Day” which is about taking life a day at a time. At any rate, due to the biblical profanity of using Jesus name in a vain way, Dove is unable to award our Dove “Family-Approved” Seal to this film.