Movie Mom

Movie Mom

The Secrets of Jonathan Sperry

posted by Nell Minow
Lowest Recommended Age:All Ages
MPAA Rating:Rated PG for mild thematic elements
Nudity/Sex:Middle school romance
Diversity Issues:Diverse characters, some insularity about Christianity being the only way to God
Movie Release Date:September 18, 2009
DVD Release Date:May 4, 2010
Lowest Recommended Age: All Ages
MPAA Rating: Rated PG for mild thematic elements
Profanity: None
Nudity/Sex: Middle school romance
Alcohol/Drugs: None
Violence/Scariness: Bully
Diversity Issues: Diverse characters, some insularity about Christianity being the only way to God
Movie Release Date: September 18, 2009
DVD Release Date: May 4, 2010

Christian families looking for wholesome and satisfying entertainment will appreciate “The Secrets of Jonathan Sperry,” the story of young friends whose lives are changed through friendship with a man who does more than encourage them to study the Bible; he sets a standard for them to live up to in the way that he applies Biblical teachings to his own behavior. Its summer vacation of 1970 setting is just right for a “why don’t they make films like they did in the old days” story.

Jansen Panettiere (younger brother of Hayden Panettiere of “Heroes”) plays Dustin, a good kid who lives with his single mother and hangs out with his friends at the local diner. He has a crush on a girl who works there and agonizes about how to ask her out. His other problem is a bully named Nick (Taylor Boggan) who harasses everyone.


Jonathan Sperry (“The Love Boat’s” Gavin McLeod), a kindly neighbor, hires Dustin to mow his lawn. Sperry invites Dustin and his friends over for Bible study and chocolate cake. He has a way of making the lessons very compelling — and for showing the boys with his own behavior and his quiet counsel how meaningful the lessons are. When his open-hearted and considerate generosity makes a difference in Nick’s life, it makes one in theirs, too.


The film’s parochialism in insisting that Christianity is the only way to get to Heaven will keep it in the church group category. But its sincerity and above average script help it live up to the teaching style of its title character as well as the content of his lessons. Its portrayal of patience, kindness, and forgiveness as the most significant and life-changing forces of Christianity — for those who give as well as those who receive — are undeniably touching.

  • Vince

    Funny, yours is the first positive review I’ve seen for this movie. All I’ve heard is how terrible it is. But then, movies like this usually are due to overdoing the preachiness. If I want to watch something spiritual, I’ll watch Dogma.

  • Nell Minow

    I’m a big fan of “Dogma,” Vince, and I still liked this movie. As I said in my review, I like the way it emphasizes the deeds, judgments, and priorities of the characters that are informed by their faith rather than empty beliefs.

  • http://WonderfulFilm! Jon Osborne

    I stumbled across this film on Netflix and am delightfully surprised!

    This movie moved me deeply to empathize with the characters and to reflect on my short life vs. the eternal message of the Gospel. Although it isn’t–and probably wasn’t intended to be–a theological treatise, its basic message is sound. Sorry…no “special” effects; just a wonderful story acted out by real people. As a bonus, I can watch this with my family without being ashamed!

    My hat is off to Gavin McLeod and the entire film team. I unreservedly recommend this film to all.

    • Nell Minow

      Mr. Osborne, I am so pleased that you found this lovely movie! I also found it surprisingly touching. Thank you so much for taking the time to write — I hope your comment will encourage others to take a look.

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