Why did Judas betray Jesus? Why did Pilate and the Romans crucify him? Why did God let them? Your kids have questions. So does this movie.
Judas’ despair and suicide are likely to upset smaller children. Some graphic pelvic thrusts in closeup in the commerce-in-the-temple sequence. The portrayal of King Herod and his court trades in 70s camp imagery (and not in a good way). 39 measures of Jesus being whipped is kind a long time. The glitzy, upbeat title number is intercut with Jesus carrying the cross, which may seem disrespectful to some. Many Christians dislike the play for its ambivalence and ambiguity, and even more dislike the film (or rather Ted Neeley, as a very human Jesus). This telling of the story ends with no reference to the resurrection. Parents of a certain generation may experience cognitive dissonance watching the actor playing Peter.
Don't you get me wrong (Don't you get me wrong)
It is no exaggeration to say that I learned to read by listening to Jesus Christ Superstar. I’d found the record album in my parents’ collection when I was just four years old. I played it over and over (and over), staring at the libretto as the words (and guitar riffs) burned deep grooves into my brain. As a first grader, the eighth graders performed a dramatized lip-synch of the album for the entire (Catholic) school. And I would watch the 1973 film adaptation (shot on location in Israel) every Easter season when it aired on KTVU. While Ted Neeley’s reedy voice couldn’t begin to hold a candle to Ian Gillan’s, the emotion and soul of Carl Anderson’s Judas felt like it could burst through the TV screen at any minute. This is challenging stuff, though. Its impact will depend on your child and your family’s faith tradition. You may decide the film warrants some serious debriefing. But as a child it left me feeling both more grown up and closer to God. And the music—even the string section—rocks the [REDACTED] out. —