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Movie Review: The Secrets of Jonathan Sperry

26 October 2009


Sperry and Trio

Sperry and Trio

Watching this movie has taught me among other things, that I have become somewhat jaded in my old age.  The story is set in 1970, and centers around the friendship of three boys, a friendship between an older man and one member of the trio, with subplots involving a love-interest of one of the boys, and the reformation of a bully. 

I watched the startup friendship between the older gentleman (Sperry) and the leader of the boy trio (Dustin), and I couldn’t help thinking (partly, from my Episcopal Church sexual abuse training), “Gee, there really should be another adult around for an extra set of eyes to make sure everything is on the up and up.”  Later, I breathed a sigh of relief when I realized that the intentions of Sperry were honorable. 

At that point, I was viewing the film with a critical eye.  Let’s see – It’s a Christian movie not from one of the ‘ollywoods, and its budget is about $1M.  Let’s just say that it’s not the most polished movie you’re going to see, and leave it at that.  Robert Guillaume (of TV’s Benson) is for the most part, a pleasure to watch in action;  with the exception of one second in the movie when he makes this hideous face (let’s call it, Guilluame’s “Exclamation-Point!” Face).  Trust me, you’ll know it when you see it.  And it’s got Gavin MacLeod (captain of the Love Boat).

Basically, first I thought I was watching something sick;  then I thought I was watching a stinky piece of Christian film fiction. 

I’m happy to say that the joke is on me on both counts.  Actually, it’s not fiction.  It’s based on the true story of Jonathan Sperry (1895-1970), who was used by the Lord to spearhead a revival among several teenage boys in a small town, in 1970.  The boys depicted in the film later became Christian leaders in their own right – one a biology professor in a Christian college, another a pastor, another an owner of three Christian radio stations, and still another a police officer with a passion for helping troubled youth. 

Gavin MacLeod, who plays Jonathan Sperry, is a born-again Christian, and has this to say about his latest role:  “the biggest honor I have ever had was to play the role of Jonathan Sperry in this simple, but special film.”

Behind the scenes, the Christiano Brothers (Dave and Rich) have had a large hand in the creation of this film.  The film has been co-written by the two brothers, and Rich has also produced and directed.  They have an interesting story as well, and I hope that we will be hearing more from them.  Both brothers are also born-again Christians. 

 On a side note, I’ve included this article under the Leadership and The-Real-Deal categories because I think there is a lot we traditionalist Episcopalians can learn from  Sperry.  In my opinion, we need a guy like him in every one of our dioceses.  Along with each of them, we’d need several people running interference. 

Maybe it’s time that we started holding our Bible-studies in graveyards. 

Maybe it’s time that we started preaching about the reality of Hell. 

Maybe it’s time to start thinking and praying about evangelization of our friends and families, regardless of where we are called within Anglicanism. 


On a milder note, it’s not for kids under 7 or 8  (Cootie Alert for pre-adolescents, Snore Alert for younger kids).  It was fun though, watching Dustin wrestle with his infatuation over Tanya.  That alone makes it good for kids entering into that phase.

Catch it at one of the DanBarry Cinemas.  Bring twice as much cash though – they don’t accept plastic, and since this is a special feature, it would be at least six bucks per ticket instead of DanBarry’s usual three-bucks. 

Worth it.

– Elder

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