This family film offers better-than-average performances and some winning folksy humor mixed into its staunchly Christina message. Idyllic, small town Auburn learns that into each life a little Messiah must fall when itinerant crack-carpenter Joshua (Tony Goldwyn) breezes in on a cloud of virtue. Joshua first spearheads the rebuilding of the Baptist church, which had been gutted by fire, then teaches a mouthy teen how to put God into his guitar playing, encourages a young widow to rejoin the dating pool and gives his landlady cooking tips that help her keep her man. The town's Catholic priests, Fathers Tardone (F. Murray Abraham) and Pat (Kurt Fuller), hire Joshua to carve a statue of St. Peter, but Father Tardone resents the woodcarver's pied piper effect on his congregation. Joshua's suggestion that Father Pat should veer away from Father Tardone's hellfire-and-brimstone style doesn't score Joshua any points with the veteran pastor. At a tent show, Joshua challenges an evangelist and effects his own cure of a blind woman. Embittered by his inability to secure a Vatican post and envious of Joshua's popularity, Father Tardone brands Joshua as a dangerous influence. Tardone disputes Joshua's miracles and alerts the Archbishop, who in turn contacts the Pope (Giancarlo Giannini); the Holy Father summons the alleged flim-flam man to Rome and is touched by his godliness. The people of Auburn don't need an official decree to certify that their Joshua is a gift from the Almighty, but will Father Tardone see the light before Joshua moves onto greener pastures? True believers will embrace this low-key, feel-good movie, which envisions Jesus's return as modern-day Mr. Fix-it.
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