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Posted 24 Feb 2001   For week ended August 27, 2000
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Sent on Mormon-News: 29Aug00

Summarized by Kent Larsen

God's Army Prompts Mixed Reviews in East

NEW YORK, NEW YORK -- As the LDS-oriented movie God's Army opened in New York City and elsewhere in the Eastern U.S., reviews have been mixed, with New York newspapers panning the show, while elsewhere reviews were much more favorable. Predictably, the nearly-impossible-to-please New York Times disliked the movie, but, surprisingly the more-plebeian New York Post and the Christian Science Monitor were also disappointed. But the Dallas Morning News and the Kansas City Star liked the movie, and, even more surprisingly, the intellectually-oriented public radio talk-show host Leonard Lopate practically bubbled over the movie in an interview with its director Richard Dutcher.

The New York Times' criticizes the film for its "preaching that is likely to tax the credibility of the unconverted," but says it is possible to like the film for its "unusual subject and unpretentious performances." It suggests that Dutcher's performance in the role of Elder Marcus Dalton is particularly good, calling it "convincing."

Dutcher might wish that the Times and the New York Post had compared notes before writing their reviews, since the Post seems to have the opposite criticisms of the movie. The Post calls God's Army an "intelligent movie" that "admirably doesn't quite end up preaching to the converted," but criticizes it for "too many bland performances, clumsily staged scenes and laggard pacing that drags out the proceedings for nearly two hours."

The Christian Science Monitor's brief review (all of two sentences) has the same problem with the movie that the New York Times does. It says "At heart, this is more a Mormon recruiting film than a three-dimensional drama, but it provides fascinating glimpses of a subject that Hollywood hardly ever touches."

Phillip Wuntch, writing in the Dallas Morning News, is much more positive about the film, admiring its unexpected subtlety and the unexpected detours the plot takes to get to a reassuring and predictable end. It particularly liked Matthew Brown's performance as Elder Brandon Allen, saying that his performance brought "poignant shades to Elder Allen's 'greenness.' " Wuntch complemented all the actors on "graceful" performances and noted that the musical score was "effective in its beguiling simplicity -- much like the film itself."

In the Kansas City Star, Robert Butler says that God's Army goes beyond religious propaganda, making "observations about the nature of faith [that] are insightful enough to arouse the interest of just about anyone with a spiritual bent." Although he admits the plot sounds "heavy-handed and didactic," Butler says "it doesn't play that way." While he says Dutcher relies on melodrama in the plot, he also credits him with "the skill and conviction to finesse his way around the objections of non-Mormon viewers." However, Butler also notes that "a scene in which missionaries convert Hispanic Roman Catholics clearly wasn't designed to increase ecumenical harmony."

Possibly the most positive of the New York publications was, paradoxically, the interview Dutcher did on public radio station WNYC-AM with host Leonard Lopate of New York &Co. Lopate, known as one of the more thorough interviewers, was very positive about the film, praising Dutcher for making a film about a little-known subject.


God's Army
New York Times 25Aug00 A2
By Lawrence Van Gelder
Good works don't necessarily make good films.

Movie Reviews: God's Army
NY Post 25Aug00 A2

Movie Guide (God's Army)
Christain Science Monitor 25Aug00 A2

God's Army
Dallas Morning News 25Aug00 A2
By Phillip Wuntch

'God's Army' preaches to converted
Kansas City KS Star 24Aug00 A2
By Robert W. Butler: Kansas City Star

Richard Deutcher on New York and Company Radio Talk Show
WNYC New York NY 22Aug00 A2


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