These days everyone gets a prequel, even Jesus. But The Young Messiah, which follows a year in the early life Jesus, is almost completely devoid of narrative tension. Its two main questions (“Who is Jesus?” and “Will he survive this movie?”) have blindingly obvious answers for anyone who’s ever heard of the Bible, and its wide-eyed titular character, played by Adam Greaves-Neal, is far from Jesus’ most riveting cinematic portrayal. The film’s other main narrative arc follows Sean Bean playing a nearly identical role as Joseph Fiennes in the recent Biblical film Risen and George Clooney in the fake movie within Hail, Caesar!: the Roman centurion who is moved to piety by his encounter with the living Christ. As a result, his story is just as predictable as the young savior’s.
As this year’s other Jesus movies go, at least Risen managed to add new characters and perspective to one of the world’s most well-known stories. The Young Messiah struggles to hold its audience’s attention. C–