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Mormon comedy "The R.M." has wide appeal

from the southern-perspectives dept.
By Andrew Griffin
Originally written for The Town Talk

It may not have been a blockbuster. It may not have even been in a theater near you, but in case you missed its theatrical release, the highly entertaining, Kurt Hale-directed Mormon film “The R.M.,” is now at a video store near you.

And it’s a pretty swell flick, with an amusing storyline, endearing characters, fine acting, great music, and quality production.

“R.M.,” as you may or may not [...] know, stands for “returning missionary,” as in a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints who has concluded work in the mission field.

So, with visions of a good job, acceptance into Brigham Young University and a wedding in his future, blonde missionary Jared Phelps (Kirby Heyborne) returns from his two-year mission trip to find that his sunny dreams are rapidly turning into a stormy, Job-like nightmare.

For starters, when Jared arrives at the airport in his Utah hometown, his parents fail to show up at the airport. Then he arrives at his house only to find that his parents have moved. There is a hilarious scene where he tries to get in the house but is kung-fooed in the face and knocked into a swimming pool. And that’s just one of many painful insults likable Jared will endure.

When he finds their new home and his attractive girlfriend is seeing somebody else.

As for director Hale, this is his second LDS-oriented feature, the first being the amusing movie “The Singles Ward.” Hale’s wholesome comedies have resulted in him being called the “John Hughes of Mormon cinema.”

And what’s interesting is that “The R.M.” is very similar to “Sixteen Candles,” the 1980’s teen classic starring Molly Ringwald. I suspect Hale grew up on a steady diet of Brat Pack picks.

In “Sixteen Candles,” Ringwald’s character Samantha Baker arrives at her 16th birthday only to find out that everyone has forgotten and chaos reigns in the household.

High schooler Samantha has to put up with an odd Chinese exchange student named Long Duck Dong, while “The R.M.’s” Jared has to live with an enormous Tongan exchange student named Humu. There is a funny scene when Humu’s upper bunk bed collapses on top of much-smaller Jared.

Samantha also endures the preparations for her older sister’s wedding, just as Jared has to endure the goings-on surrounding his own sister’s wedding. The comparisons between the two films are numerous, in retrospect.

Anyway, during the movie the audience gets to know Jared’s fallen away Mormon pal Kori (the incredibly talented and charming Will Swenson) who is more interested in partying at the local frat than home teaching. One scene emphasizes how he purchases a Coca-Cola, rather than a non-caffeinated beverage. Caffeine is a no-no among LDS adherents.

He’s already struggling to find a job, any job. BYU rejects his application and a frat prank gone awry lands him in court. Will Jared get the girl? Will he get a job? It’s fun to watch him balance his faith and struggle to do the right thing.

For those not familiar with Mormon culture, a number of references will be confusing. But the religious overtones are not overly distracting and in a way enhance the story.

The DVD includes some funny outtakes as well as two videos, one by Mormon boy band Jericho Road and the other by alternative rock band SweetHaven.

Movie grade: B+

Andrew Griffin: 318-487-6390;

agriffin@thetowntalk.com

not as funny as...

The Home Teachers is a much better film. As far as Mormon fun flicks go, this is the best of the bunch so far.

Any film that brings to light the chaos of gnomes is alright by me. They must be stopped!

I didn't like R.M. as much

I thought that the R.M. had its moments, but feel that the Single's Ward and the Best Two Years were far better and funnier.

The humor seemed to be more forced in the R.M. while in the other two, it flowed a little better (IMHO). The R.M. felt like Meet the Parents in that everything that could go wrong, does.

The portrayal of the Sister Missionary was humorous and I thought that Will Swenson did a great job as a (Jack) Mormon, especially in the telemarketer scenes. The Elder's Quorum representation was pretty much dead on (no one pays attention or has the manual). But overall, I thought the movie wasn't as good as the Single's Ward and the Best 2 Years.

K.C. Ushijima, the Provo-King