‘The Jesus Music’ Review: Skimming 50 Years, a Christian Music Doc Chooses Its Controversies Carefully

“The Jesus Music,” a film about the Christian music scene that earned more than half a million dollars over its opening weekend, is about as friendly and far removed from being an expose as a documentary can get, but that doesn’t mean the filmmakers want fans to think they’re getting anything but unvarnished truth. So the opening moments feature some of the movie’s primary participants — including Kirk Franklin, the three former members of DC Talk, Amy Grant and Michael W. Smith (the last two of whom are also among its executive producers) — sitting down for their interviews with tight faces and grim demeanors, as if about to be forced to spill their darkest secrets. But this introductory sequence doth protest too much: “The Jesus Music” is an altogether celebratory film made by the industry for its fans and, as with a lot of contemporary Christian music, throwing in some “brokenness” along with the holiness is part of the pitch.

That’s not to say that the doc doesn’t have some genuinely affecting moments as the stars of the genre recount some of their darker hours in the movie’s mid-section. It has to, when Grant is talking about how her divorce led to a near-career downfall as much of her evangelical audience rejected her, or Franklin and next-generation gospel star Lecrae discuss the racial prejudices of CCM’s primarily white audience, or ’80s star Russ Taff gets candid about alcoholism, or DC Talk’s survivors open up about not having left their egos at the door before their 2000 breakup.

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