Hot Take: Interesting premise, poor execution. Not to crucify The Young Messiah but not much happens outside of the random miracle. If Jesus were imagined as a superhero, this would be his origin story.
Going into The Young Messiah, something felt different about what many felt was purely a shameless attempt to capture the very lucrative faith-based audience. Based on a novel written by Anne Rice (of Interview With The Vampire and Queen of the Damned fame), The Young Messiah weaves the tale of a 7 year-old Jesus. The film follows the family’s return to Nazareth after spending 7 years in hiding in Alexandria from Herod the Great.
Without getting too much into the details of the film (as is the practice of this site), The Young Messiah is different than most other faith-based films about Jesus as it attempts to tell a lesser known period of Jesus’ life. The story is pieced together from a number of sources and the film is even heavily altered from Rice’s version (fresh with a more prominent Satan and a conflicted Centurion not present in the Rice novel). The movie feels much longer than the actual period of time covered and, in general, not much happens. While most tales of Christ feel epic in proportion, The Young Messiah is modest in scale and stature. It feels like watching a table setting for a glorious feast that’s never actually served.
The Young Messiah is about as ordinary a film as you’ll see sharing any trials and tribulations of Jesus and that itself makes the film feel odd.
“Spoiler Free” Pros
- The Young Messiah
Adam Greaves-Neal delivers as young Jesus. His performance is befitting of the character and offers just enough youth but also his performance makes the character feel wise beyond his years.
- A Rare Fresh Breath
At the very least, the filmmakers take a road less traveled in the overall arc of the story (too bad they take more familiar roads in the actual tale).
- David Bradley
The most delightful moment of the film is Jesus’ first encounter with a rabbi. The rabbi, played by Bradley, is one of the few memorable supporting characters of the movie.
“Spoiler Free” Cons
- The Effeminate Evil
The evil characters in the film are offered up as effeminate and paranoid. There’s something odd about the way they are portrayed and manipulative in the typecasting.
- Christian McKay
Early on, McKay’s Cleopha is the most animated character in the film. Later, you realize the actor is more than animated, as he must think he’s playing a cartoon version of Jesus’ uncle.
- A Christian Episode I
There are times where The Young Messiah feels like Anakin’s origin story in The Phantom Menace. The only thing missing is a less capable young actor and a more whimsical mother. If she said, “What does your heart tell you, Jesus?” I probably would have left. On second thought, a pod race might have been fun.