The Secrets of Jonathan Sperry
Reviewed by: Scott Brennan
1 hr. 36 min.
Year of Release:
September 18, 2009
DVD: May 4, 2010
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“What he teaches them… will last forever.”
Official site: sperrymovie.com
The film, “The Secrets of Jonathan Sperry,” set in a small town in upstate New York in 1970, is truly a stunning success for the Christian-crossover genre of films like “Fireproof,” a more recent winner in the secular market. The director, Rich Christiano, also co-wrote the film with his brother Dave, both of whom have been producing, writing, and directing films since the late 1980’s. This is undoubtedly their best film to date.
The casting is impressive! How they were able to find boys, in 2009, with that Timmy-Martin-look-of-innocence (from “Lassie”), who also had the pleasant personalities of the Douglas brothers in “My Three Sons” or even the Cleaver brothers (“Leave it to Beaver”) is a fait accompli. They are truly talented young actors, especially Jansen Panettiere, who were ably supported by the seasoned performances of Gavin Macleod and Robert Guillaume.
This “coming of age film” was the perfect mix of “Stand by Me,” “Lassie,” and “My Three Sons” stimulated with the simplicity of the gospel throughout the movie—something those others always lacked. The casting, combined with the artistic sets, the thoughtful music choices, and serene location shots, all helped to carry me back to my own childhood—an innocent age in most towns in America, during the late 1960’s and early 1970’s. This movie portrayal was real. It didn’t feel contrived in any way. The producers of TV’s “That 70’s Show” would have been wise to consult the Christiano Film Group before they ever produced a single episode depicting that era for television viewers.
Watching this film surfaced a variety of feelings—which I had long ago forgotten. There were a few painful memories, like neighborhood bullies and the unrequited love of adolescence, but, overall, they were pleasant ones—of a happier time and place in our nation’s history.
This is truly a family film, one that everyone will enjoy. But more importantly, it brings home the message of Jesus in a powerful, yet believable way. The simplicity with which the message of the gospel is delivered in this film is what makes the movie so remarkable. While remaining provocative, it doesn’t have the stereotypical “breakaway” to the church preacher or evangelist to carry the message, as so many films of this type have done over the years.
Yes, the story line has all the predictable scenes and characters that we knew so well in an age gone by. You will cheer for the good guys, and get angry with the “bully” antagonist. You will smile at the innocent foibles of youth, and laugh-out-loud at vignettes you’ve probably lived in your past. But not without shedding a few tears as well. Conventional characters, yes, but they were as real in our childhoods, as they are portrayed in “The Secrets of Jonathan Sperry,” and it doesn’t make us turn away from them at all. It compels us to want more.
You’ll have to see the film to find out what Jonathan’s secrets were, but you won’t be disappointed. It has something to do with “listening” and memorial parks with gravestones. However, by the time you leave the theater, you’ll be thinking of lots of people you know—with whom you have something very important to share. Of this, you can be certain: you are going to love this film.
Violence: None / Profanity: None / Sex/Nudity: None
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