Slash Film

In the wake of the box office and critical success of “Fargo,” all eyes were on the Coen Brothers and their next film, “The Big Lebowski,” which celebrates its 25th anniversary this week. Instead of following up their Oscar-winning black comedy with another richly profound crime film, the Coens made a stoner comedy starring Jeff Bridges as an easygoing slacker perfectly content to spend his days sipping White Russians and bowling with his buddies. Decades later, The Dude has become a cultural icon and “The Big Lebowski” is considered a bonafide comedy classic. When it was first released, however, it received a lukewarm reception in the States, save for a few diehard fans that understood its low-key greatness. 

No one was clamoring for a sequel, except John Turturro who pleaded with the Coen Brothers to sign off on a spin-off centering around his character Jesus Quintana — the perverted rival bowler who serves as one of the main antagonists of The Dude and his cohorts. It’s rarely a good idea to make a sequel nearly twenty years after the original, but that’s exactly what Turturro did when he began filming “The Jesus Rolls” in 2016. 

Using “The Big Lebowski” as a jumping-off point, Turturro peppers in plenty of references to the 1998 cult classic that mostly come off feeling forced and out of place. Really, Turturro was setting out to remake Bertrand Blier’s 1974 film “Going Places” starring Gerard Depardieu and Patrick Dewaere as a couple of low-rent criminals committing petty crimes across the French countryside. “The Jesus Rolls” collected dust for a few years until finally seeing the light of day in 2020 when it landed in theaters with a quiet thud. 

I Watched The Jesus Rolls So You Don’t Have To

Honestly, if “The Jesus Rolls” would have come out now during the peak of the streaming age, it may have gained a lot more interest if it was marketed as a straight follow-up to “The Big Lebowski.” As such, Turturro’s indie film turns into a fairly meandering crime caper that feels more like an R-rated sitcom following two middle-aged convicts. 

After being released from Sing Sing prison, Quintana reunites with his long-lost buddy Petey (Bobby Cannavale) and they waste no time in stealing a car from a random hairdresser (Jon Hamm). They meet up with Marie (Audrey Tautou), a textbook nymphomaniac who joins them on the road committing petty crimes and engaging in awkward scenes of meaningless sex. Life has passed them by, leaving Jesus and Petey to wander the Earth until they either luck into a big score or wind up back in the pen. 

Jesus, the character, pretty much exists in name only as Turturro and Cannavale seem more interested in winging it in their own interpretation of a 1970s buddy crime film. There’s very little connection to the original film by the Coens, with only loose references and lazy callbacks. Turturro seems more concerned with remaking “Going Places” or acting in a comedy version of 1976’s “Mikey and Nicky” starring Peter Falk and John Cassavetes. 

Tonally, “The Jesus Rolls” is all over the place making the haphazard direction stand out even more. With a running time right around 90 minutes, the collection of vignettes plays out more like three episodes of a television series instead of a fully constructed feature. 

There Are Some References To The Big Lebowski Though!

Boasting an all-star cast featuring Susan Sarandon, Pete Davidson, JB Smoove, Christopher Walken, and Coen Brothers alumni Tim Blake Nelson, “The Jesus Rolls” has so many random cameos that it’s pretty apparent Turturro was calling in favors without really knowing what to do with such an impressive collection of performers. Sarandon’s appearance is slightly memorable, though, as an ex-con who gets caught up in Quintana’s ill-advised crime spree. 

The cast aside, the main reason to give Turturro’s passion project a watch is to catch all the references to “The Big Lebowski.” For fans that attend Lebowski Fest who have been avoiding the spinoff, consider creating a fun drinking game every time Turturro says “Nobody f***s with the Jesus.” (It’s twice, by the way.) The troublesome subplot establishing Jesus as a sex offender is quickly dispatched early on when it’s explained that it was all a big misunderstanding involving a kid who accidentally caught a glimpse of his package at a public urinal. For some reason, there’s a flashback sequence so that a visual aid can be provided of the incident. 

The references keep coming when Christopher Walken’s warden thanks Jesus for helping to win a few prison bowling tournaments, adding that he’s never seen a man lick a bowling ball for luck. When Jesus does finally lick the ball later on, you know what to do: Drink! 

The biggest callback comes when Jesus and Petey take a break from thieving and bickering to visit the local bowling alley. Turturro brings out all the stops here and it’s a joy to see his antics out on the lane one more time. Turturro really should have made two films instead of one, a straight remake of “Going Places” and, separately, a prison bowling movie with Jesus in a supporting role. Although he was glorious in “The Big Lebowski” 25 years ago, Jesus just isn’t leading man material. 

Read this next: The 95 Best Comedy Movies Ever

The post The Big Lebowski Spin-Off You Probably Already Forgot About appeared first on /Film.

/Film – The Big Lebowski Spin-Off You Probably Already Forgot About
Author: Drew Tinnin
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March 10, 2023

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