The Austin Chronicle

The Jesus Music

Rated PG-13, 109 min. Directed by Jon Erwin, Andrew Erwin.

REVIEWED By Adrienne Hunter, Fri., Oct. 1, 2021

There is a moment in faith-based documentary The Jesus Music during which platinum-selling Grammy winner Amy Grant and "the cornerstone of Christian music" Michael W. Smith sit by a fire that refuses to burn out. The flames parallel the ways the film, a proud celebration of contemporary Christian music, proposes that those songs refuse to fade away. In moments like that, the nearly two-hour documentary succeeds in becoming exactly what the target audience will most definitely be eager to view. However, as a documentary, this one-sided praise makes it more reminiscent of an extended infomercial for a “best of” CD collection than a compelling insight into the industry.

Directors Jon and Andrew Erwin seek out to inform viewers of a very specific history of Christian music, using a standard format of interviews with industry professionals and occasional archival footage that tells a story of the genre’s life, from the early days of Larry Norman to the peaks of Kirk Franklin and beyond. It is clear that The Jesus Music has a goal of telling a very specific history from a very specific perspective: And from that very specific perspective of praise, viewers learn about the moments of history that the filmmakers might deem as industry highlights, featuring a chorus of iconic names to echo those hallelujahs.

However, the lack of interrogation and analysis means the film repeats the same tune. It becomes an uncritical Wikipedia article, summarizing and singing the praises of one notable event before moving on to the next. Apart from a few very short segments, there are hardly any moments in which the filmmakers seek to discuss any conflict, and even then, the accountability is almost always swiftly placed away from the industry and on to unnamed individuals, providing little insight and analysis past the surface.

While this approach might make for an exciting celebration of the genre, it unfortunately leads to a rather lackluster and repetitive documentary unlikely to capture the interest of anyone other than devout followers of Christian music.

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