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Posted 24 Feb 2001   For week ended April 09, 2000
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Summarized by Mike Nielsen

Park City Reviewer Likes God's Army
Park City UT Record 8Apr00 A4
By Rick Brough: Record Guest Writer

PARK CITY, UTAH -- In a review of God's Army, guest writer Rick Brough reacts to the independent film about an LDS elder serving a mission in Los Angeles. The film is unlikely to have an impact on box offices outside LDS circles, and like the recent spoofs "Orgazmo" and "Plan Ten", it does not escape the limits of being an "insider's" view.

Nevertheless, the movie succeeds in its effort to go beyond a caricature of missionaries, showing the emotional ups and downs of mission life. In this regard, the film is objective enough that advocates and opponents of the church alike will note elements consistent with their views.

The featured missionary, Elder Brandon Allen (Matthew Brown) learns quickly that missionaries' proselytizing efforts are unpopular. His tough-minded compansion, Elder Mark Dalton (writer-director Richard Dutcher) brings out the fact that Allen does not know why he is serving a mission, and much of the flim's focus is on such matters of faith and doubt.

The script addresses some of the controversies associated with the LDS world-view. One missionary reads and studies anti-Mormon literature and consequently doubts his faith. Another is alluded to have been convicted of child molestation. And a black Edler (DeSean Terry) professes a strong testimony but does not respond convincingly when faced with questions about LDS positions on blacks and women. In this regard, the film's major omission is its avoidance of homosexuality, especially notable because of the church's recent efforts against California Prop 22.

The film seems sanitized when the missionaries encounter hookers, and the practical jokes become devolve to weird levels as one missionary snaps a photos of the other on the toilet. They also have a tasteless fondness for leper jokes.

Brown does well as Elder Allen, illustrating an increasing faith borne from struggling with doubt. Richard Dutcher's character combines humanity, bluntness, and wisdom, and as a filmmaker Dutcher creates some good movie moments, illustrating daily mission life with polite respect. The most noticeable flaw in the movie is its melodramatic ending, when a major character is healed of a fatal illness, as though to reassure the audience.


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