The main triumph of the film is casting. Not only has director/writer Dennis Lee scored Michael Sheen and the radiant Toni Collette to play the adults, he's discovered Jason Spevack and Samantha Weinstein, both of whom give performances that are refreshingly restrained. Although Weinstein has one or two unnecessary over-the-top moments, it's not a wacky gag that Henry (Spevack) is blessed with the ability to remember anything he reads. Aside from the talking-baby bit, Henry's intelligence is always the set up for a joke and never the punchline. Conversely, the movie treats Patricia Herman (Collette) and Dr. Slavkin O'Hara (Sheen) as equals, not morons. It would be equally tiring if the film was about nothing more than the kids showing their parents up, but it's not.
The four of them are brought together when Henry, conceived with a sperm donation, gets an unusual birthday gift from his wily grandfather Stan (Frank Moore): Stan tells him that he's located Henry's half-sister Audrey (Weinstein). Audrey has become infamous at her school for being the subject of her father's book Born Gay or Made That Way?, a study of gender-neutral upbringing. Henry finds Dr. O'Hara in a bookstore, decides he likes him, and proceeds to get accepted at Dr. O'Hara's university, at which point he reveals to both Slavkin and Patricia that Slavkin is his father.
Although the film coasts along at a nice pace on the strength of its characters, the story is not as successful. Flashbacks showing Patricia's troubled family life are...oddly violent and crude. Patricia's mother is killed lighting Patricia's birthday cake, and Patricia watches as her mother burns to death in the family living room. Later, Patricia's twin brothers die when one accidentally shoots the other after being called a "faggot," and the other brother dies of AIDS. Later, there is another accidental shooting death of a minor character in one of the movie's more awkward side jokes. All of these events (most of which are unusually bloody for a PG-13) make for awkward attempts at humor, although they probably make up less than ten minutes of the film.
Despite this awkward set up, Jesus Henry Christ doesn't have much of a conflict. Henry wants to know who his father is, to feel more of a connection to his family, and immediately succeeds in finding Slavkin, so Lee introduces the possibility that Slavkin might not be Audrey's father, so since Stan was only able to definitively identify Audrey as Henry's half-sister, a mystery party would be their real father. Later, Lee throws in the idea that Slavkin pulled strings at the university to get Henry in, so that Slavkin could write another book. Neither of these conflicts are particularly compelling, yet the film still manages to tie what strings it has together in a satisfying fashion that does a satisfying job of paying off Henry's goals despite very little standing in his way.
The Video and Audio
The disc's Dolby Digital 5.1 track is not without issues itself. Although it's hard to determine whether it's a problem with the source elements or the mixing of the disc, there's a tinny echo to the film's sound. Since it's consistent all the way through, I have to guess it's either an issue with the DVD or something baked into the video/audio files given to Entertainment One. Dialogue is still easy to understand, and what little surround activity there is comes through, but the echo is very distracting. English subtitles are also included.
A trailer for Virginia plays before the main menu. An original trailer for Jesus Henry Christ is also included.