Back to "The Legend of Johnny Lingo" page 6

"The Legend of Johnny Lingo" (2003)
Articles and Reviews
- Page 7 -

Film Forum: American Splendor Finds Extra in the Ordinary
Critics celebrate American Splendor and applaud The Legend of Johnny Lingo but toss aside The Medallion and My Boss's Daughter

By: Jeffrey Overstreet
Date: 28 August 2003
Source: Christianity Today

Families should discover The Legend of Johnny Lingo

A little G-rated movie called The Legend of Johnny Lingo is getting reviews that suggest it should not be overlooked. Perhaps a few families will be fortunate enough to discover it even in the midst of the summer blockbuster season.

Lingo follows the adventures of a boy named Tama who as an infant is discovered by a tribe of South Pacific islanders and adopted as the child and heir of the tribe's chief. But when the chief's wife expresses her dislike for the boy, he ends up being rejected and goes off to live with the local drunk and his daughter.

Eventually, he sets out on yet another journey, promising to return. His travels lead him to a different shore, where he befriends the wealthiest trader in the region, a man called Johnny Lingo. Johnny offers Tama wisdom and guidance on everything from sailing to living a life of integrity.

"The story is actually a sweet and loving one," says Michael Elliott (Movie Parables). "The film unfortunately does suffer from its use of nonprofessional Polynesian actors. There is an amateurish air to the production that must be forgiven in order to enjoy the tale being told. However, there is no denying that the message behind the story is a powerful and poignant one. The Legend of Johnny Lingo can lead us to question how it is we are to determine or view our self-worth as well as show us how our treatment of others will affect how they see themselves."

Cliff Vaughn (Ethics Daily) says, "The Legend of Johnny Lingo is similar to the story of the biblical Joseph, who toils for years in servanthood, but whose wisdom and dedication bring him great honoraas he works to do what is right. The film also works as a case of lost-and-found identity, which children are sure to love. [The movie] is as warm and stirring as the island-scapes it beautifully captures. The film industry needs more of this storytelling wind in its sails."

Ted Baehr (Movieguide) agrees that the movie "has a lot of virtues. Patience, kindness, hard work, perseverance, are all extolled. Furthermore, taking care of the homeless, the lost, and the rebellious are exemplified. Being true to your promises, loving someone for what's inside them, and sacrificing your life for others are also extolled. ... The defect ... is that there is no real appreciation and recognition, or clarification, regarding the true salvation available in Jesus Christ."

Film: Blood and Guts Rule at Holiday Box Office

By: Nicole Sperling
Date: 28 August 2003
Source: Reuters


Innovation Film Group's "The Legend of Johnny Lingo" debuts today in Atlanta, Dallas, Phoenix, Las Vegas and Salt Lake City. The unrated family film centers on the stories a father tells his son about the Polynesian cultures of the South Pacific.

Familiar with the Lingo New film adds juice to the parable of the eight-cow wife

By: Elyssa Andrus
Date: 28 August 2003
Source: Utah County Daily Herald

Savvy marketers have long used entertainment to pitch their products -- think Britney Spears shaking it in a Pepsi commercial or Missy Elliott and Madonna groovin' for the Gap.

In the "Legend of Johnny Lingo," the Provo, Utah-based company Morinda Inc. has devised a feature-length film to showcase its Tahitian Noni Juice, co-opting a beloved LDS film classic with an ambitious 90-minute remake teeming with nods to the Noni.

Not that the plant drives the entire plot, but it's hard to avoid cringing at the frequent references to Noni juice's mystical powers -- apparently, it can both restore blood to one's cheeks and bridge the gap between island cultures.

The film is based on a 1962 short story written by the late author Patricia McGerr, in which a man pays a record eight-cow dowry for his unattractive wife in order to reveal her true potential.

In 1969, Brigham Young University produced a 25-minute version of the parable, which swiftly and sometimes comically preached its message of individual worth and inner beauty.

Since its production, the film has been shown to youth in seminaries throughout the world and has achieved a sort of cult status in LDS pop culture.

The feature-film retelling of Johnny Lingo is much more formidable and complicated (hence, the 90 minutes), infusing the parable with the back story of Lingo's life and adding a youthful romance missing in the earlier version.

Set in the South Seas in the early 1900s, the story follows the orphaned infant Tama as he washes up on the shores of Malio Island. Thought to be an unlucky gift from the gods, Tama (Tausani Simei-Barton) is tossed from home to home, eventually ending up with the village drunk and his unkempt, hard-working daughter Mahana (Fokikovi Soakimi).

As Mahana and Tama chop wood together, a romance marked by a great deal of giggling and water splashing ensues. Ultimately, Tama decides to seek his fortune and leave the island, but promises to return one day for Mahana.

The crux of the movie centers around Tama's journey from scrappy thief to well-muscled, responsible adult (Joe Falou), aided by his mentor Johnny Lingo (George Henare), a wealthy trader bent on discovering the "hidden treasure" in his charge.

Unlike the original LDS film, the eight-cow dowry and Mahana's decision to finally brush her hair is superfluous to the story. Although the adult Mahana (Kayte Ferguson), is a delightful, pre-feminist, coconut-throwing, insult-hurling kind of gal, it's not her journey, it's Tama's.

That's not to say the movie is devoid of its own Sunday School moralizing; there's an LDS Young Women's manual worth of feel-good platitudes, such as Lingo's admonition to, "Never despise the small things. They have the potential to become great."

Falou, Henare and Ferguson do a fine job at molding an at times overly dramatic and sentimental script into a sweet and often charming, happy-go-lucky film.

LDS youth familiar with Lingo's legendary status will no doubt snicker knowingly at the return of the phrase "Mahana-you-ugly".

Everyone else will, I'm afraid, take away an odd hankering for Tahitian Noni Juice. In that respect, the 90-minute filmmercial succeeds.

Letter to the Editor:
New 'Johnny Lingo' movie not an LDS production

By: Annette Adams
Date: 31 August 2003
Source: Utah County Daily Herald

I generally think of the Daily Herald as a fair and unbiased newspaper, but Elyssa Andrus has me changing my mind.

Her review of this new movie, "The Legend of Johnny Lingo," was so biased by her LDS perceptions she couldn't get past the opening credits. Someone needs to remind her that in her particular job, if she can't be objective, give the review to someone else.

I have had an opportunity to screen this movie, and how Elyssa ever got a religious twist to it is beyond me. Is she confusing religion with good old fashioned ethics? Has it been so long since she's seen a clean, family film that she can't even recognize goodness for its own sake?

This is not an LDS movie. Were "Hook", "Jurassic Park" or "Schindler's List" LDS films? The same people who made those movies, made this one. They recognized a good story and capitalized on it.

Did the funding for the movie come from Tahitian Noni International? Yes. The directors approached the company and asked for support.

Of course the LDS population is going to remember the old version. Of course they are going to wonder if this is the same thing. It isn't.

I am personally taking 25 people to the premiere of this movie because I'm proud of the fact that it is a fun, entertaining and lovely family film. Let's praise it for its strengths, not tear it down because the reviewer has "issues" with her past.

Annette Adams,
Tahitan Noni International Premier Leader Representative,

[ webmaster comments: The Tahitian Noni rep. takes exception with the Daily Herald reviewer calling "Johnny Lingo" an LDS movie. One thing of which there is not quesion: "The Legend of Johnny Lingo" is NOT an LDS Cinema film. In that sense, it is not an LDS film. However, in reading Andrus' review of the movie, I can find no place where the reviewer calls "The Legend of Johnny Lingo" an LDS film.

I really liked this movie. I don't agree with reviewer Elyssa Andrus' criticisms. But I take great exception to letter writer annette Adams saying "Her review of this new movie... was so biased by her LDS perceptions she couldn't get past the opening credits."

Movie reviews are NOT supposed to be "objective," and I have never heard of a reviewer who actually was objective. Reviewers are supposed to provide their own opinions about the movie. A reviewer does NOT simply list film credits or box office performance. which would be activies that could be done objectively. A reviewer gives opinions -- the reviewer's opinions only -- not anybody else's opinions. Letter writer Adams' criticism of the reviewer's "LDS perceptions" is an especially pernicious sentiment. Despite the fact that I generally agree with Adams' reaction and I agree with much of what she said, criticizing a reviewer for her ethnicity or religious background smacks of the kind of anti-Semitism or anti-Mormonism that has no place in polite, intellectually honest society.]

"The Legend of Johnny Lingo"

By: Frank Swietek
Date: August 2003
Source: One Guy's Opinion

Grade: C

The scenery is stunning in "The Legend of Johnny Lingo," the tale of a despised Polynesian orphan taken in by the titular fellow, a successful trader, who becomes his surrogate father and passes on his identity to him (sort of like The Phantom did to perpetuate his persona). This eventually enables the young man to return to his home island to seek the hand of the one girl who had befriended him there, but who has been so embittered by years of mistreatment and disappointment that she finds it difficult to accept the possibility of good fortune and romance. The picture is based on a story by Patricia McGerr called "Johnny Lingo's Eight Cow Wife," published in 1962. It's become especially popular in Mormon culture--one source says that, apart from the Scriptures, it might be the best-known, best-loved story in LDS circles--but it doesn't appear at first blush overtly denominational. There may be some underlying teaching about transformation and royalty that will have special meaning to church members--not being familiar with the theology I can't say. But the story is presented by screenwriter Riwia Brown ("Once Were Warriors") as a universal fable of love and the power that respect has on the person toward whom it's directed, and although some might quibble with the emphasis on wealth as the means of final redemption, it will hardly seem offensive to most viewers. It might, however, strike them as rather stilted and didactic, like a Disney live-action feature from the fifties or sixties. Steven Ramirez, an assistant editor (on pictures like "Driving Miss Daisy," "Being There" and "Dolores Claiborne") turned director, does a workmanlike but unimaginative job of staging the piece, but he's hampered by the fact that his cast--mostly of New Zealand natives with stage and screen experience--doesn't possess the finesse and ease that would have mitigated the clunky nature of some of the writing. Most memorable, perhaps, are the youngsters, Tausani Simei-Barton and Fokikovi Soakimi, who play the boy and girl who bond prior to the former's departure from their island to seek a better life. Their older counterparts, Joe Falou and Kayte Ferguson, are less impressive. The designers have an especially difficult time obscuring Ferguson's beauty when the script requires her to be portrayed as the ugliest young woman around. George Henare brings an aristocratic dignity to the generous trader, though he at times comes across as affected. Ultimately "The Legend of Johnny Lingo" is a good-natured but somewhat slack family film that's unlikely to do much business in theaters but is worth considering for rental when it shows up on video and DVD. In a way that's a pity, because it's on the big screen that its greatest strength--the luscious scenery--will make the best impression. But that's life.


Goldfish rider
["The Legend of Johnny Lingo"]

By: Tammy McMahan
Date: 28 August 2003
Source: Las Vegas Mercury

The Legend of Johnny Lingo wants to be Whale Rider meets Cinderella. Like Niki Caro's critically acclaimed hit, Lingo tells the story of a misfit Polynesian youth who's destined to lead. And this indie kidflick, based on Patricia McGerr's story Johnny Lingo's Eight Cow Wife, also stars Rawiri Paratene, Whale Rider's grandfather, Koro.

Here he plays another tribal leader, on Malio island (played by Aitutaki in the Cook Islands and Auckland, New Zealand), who initially takes in a baby boy washed ashore after a storm. Later, thinking the child, Tama, is cursed, the chief casts him off to the island drunk whose overworked, plain-Jane daughter Mahana becomes Tama's childhood sweetheart.

Tausani Simei-Barton, as the young Tama, is oceans away from Keisha Castle-Hughes' amazing mix of vulnerability and indomitable spirit, as Whale Rider's pre-teen heroine, Pai. His performance is childish overacting at its worst--all wriggling, running and ranting.

Joe Falou's adult Tama elicits little affection either, not for histrionics, but for utter blandness. Despite the tutelage of his mentor, the sporadically charismatic Johnny Lingo (George Henare), Tama becomes a handsome automaton. Even his longing for ladylove Mahana (Fokikovi Soakimi as a child/Kayte Ferguson as an adult) fails to resonate with real emotional depth.

There's no respite with Paratene, whose Koro was riveting in his pathos and passion, but whose Malio chief is a boring blowhard. However, a worthier performance comes from Ferguson who radiates Pai-like kindness, toughness and spontaneity even after the return of Prince Tama and some beauty treatments.

No doubt the film and fairy tale similarities will draw some viewers. But film editor Steven Ramirez's directorial debut, financed by Utah's Morinda, Inc. to promote its Tahitian Noni juice, is actually Goldfish Rider meets "Extreme Makeover."

An eight-cow movie
Veteran producer brings 'Johnny Lingo' to the big screen

By: Jeff Vice
Date: 29 August 2003
Source: Deseret News

During nearly three decades in Hollywood, Gerald R. Molen has worked with many of the film industry's biggest names -- Steven Spielberg, Tom Hanks, Robert Redford, Tom Cruise, Robin Williams. . . .

And his association with Spielberg also allowed Molen to become acquainted with a little fellow named Oscar. When "Schindler's List" won the Academy Award for best picture of 1993, each of the fillm's three producers took home a trophy -- Branko Lustig, Spielberg and Molen.

Yet, as rewarding as that has been, Molen says he is now moving into the most rewarding phase of his career. "First off," Molen said, "let me say this -- I would not trade anything for my Oscar. That's what every person working in this business hopes for.

"But now I think I've really got a chance to make a difference in the industry -- in the world."

These days, Molen is involved in a series of considerably smaller-budget, but no less ambitious films. He served as producer on "The Other Side of Heaven" a couple of years ago, and worked in the same capacity on "The Legend of Johnny Lingo," which is being released locally today.

A feature film based on a beloved short story by the late author Patricia McGerr, and, of course, the 1969 short film produced by Brigham Young University (which every member of the LDS Church -- of a certain age -- remembers.

"I think this is the type of film that we don't see nearly often enough," the 68-year-old film producer said by telephone from his Montana home. "Something that's got heart, a positive message and a sense of humor about itself."

"The Legend of Johnny Lingo" actually reworks and expands the original short story (titled "Johnny Lingo's Eight Cow Wife"): Young Tama (Tausani Simei-Barton), a mischievous boy, gets a chance at redemption when he's taken under the wing of South Seas trader Johnny Lingo (George Henare).

"There are times in all our lives when we've done things wrong and want to be forgiven, to be given one more chance. And then there's the whole idea of having one true love in your life."

Molen was brought on the film by longtime friend John Garbett. The two had worked together at Hollywood studios, and on "The Other Side of Heaven." "This project is something that John really believed in," Molen said. "It's really been his baby all along. Seeing how much he loved it, he didn't have to do much to sell me on it."

Also, Molen says "The Legend of Johnny Lingo" was the next logical next step after "The Other Side of Heaven," which enjoyed a successful theatrical run and was picked up for home video/DVD distribution by Disney.

Obviously, he and Garbett are hoping that, even if it's not as successful as "The Other Side of Heaven," "The Legend of Johnny Lingo" will find an audience. "There's already one built in, thanks to the short film, and that certainly helps."

The producers have purposely released the film on Labor Day Weekend to take advantage of a cinematic down time (the only major studio release is the R-rated horror movie "Jeepers Creepers 2"). "This is the perfect time to release our movie," Molen said. "The summer's over. The industry's pausing to take its breath. And that's what this is -- a breath of fresh air."

Working on this film and "The Other Side of Heaven" have afforded Molen a certain amount of freedom he's been unable to find on big-budget studio projects. (Among his other credits are producing the Spielberg films "Minority Report," "Hook" and "Jurassic Park.") "I can't possibly tell you how relaxing it is going to the set knowing you're filming something that doesn't rely on elaborate effects or big explosions," Molen said with a chuckle. "Which is not to knock the other films I've worked on. I'm justifiably proud of every movie I've ever been be involved in. But this just feels more honest."

Besides, the film was shot in New Zealand and the Cook Islands, a virtual South Seas paradise. "You can't beat that."

"The Legend of Johnny Lingo" also arrives on the heels of this summer's big art-house film success story, "Whale Rider," which was also shot in New Zealand. "That was an incredible bit of luck. But it certainly wasn't deliberate. We wanted to work in the same locations and with the same people as we had on ('The Other Side of Heaven').

"To be honest, I wasn't really even aware of 'Whale Rider' until someone brought it to our attention. But if the association with that film helps us, then I love it."

Behind-the-scenes shot of Fokikori Soakimi, left, as young Mahana, producer Jerry Molen, and Kayte Ferguson as the grown Mahana, on location in New Zealand during the production of feature-length "The Legend of Johnny Lingo."

Producer Jerry Molen takes a break aboard the vessel Te-Au-O-Tonga off the coast of the South Pacific island of Aitutaki during production.

'Johnny Lingo' movie is a stretch in every way

By: Jeff Vice
Date: 29 August 2003
Source: Deseret News

THE LEGEND OF JOHNNY LINGO - ** [2 stars out of 4] - Tausani Simei-Barton, Fokikori Soakimi, George Hanare, Joe Falou, Kayte Ferguson, Rawiri Parantene; rated G (mild vulgarity, slapstick violence); see "Playing at local movie theaters" for theater listings.

Anyone who's seen the 1969, Brigham Young University-produced short film "Johnny Lingo" may remember that there was barely enough material for 25 minutes. The thought of a feature film version really seems like a stretch.

So it's not that surprising that "stretch" is a good way to describe "The Legend of Johnny Lingo," a family-friendly comedy that tries to expand and expound upon the locally known tale.

The resulting film is so poorly constructed that at times it feels like a series of barely connected skits, only some of which work. At other times, it feels like a 90-minute informercial for a certain Tahitian juice product.

As with the previous version, this one is based on the short story "Johnny Lingo's Eight-Cow Wife" by the late author Patricia McGerr. The film attempts to tell the back story of the latest man to bear the name Johnny Lingo.

Though it's not apparent at first, that would be Tama (Tausani Simei-Barton), a boy who washes up on the shore of a South Sea island. Though at first it's believed that he's destined for big things, the mischievous boy finds himself being bounced from family to family.

In fact, the only real connection he makes is with Mahana (Fokikori Soakimi), the supposedly homely daughter of the village drunk. But when Tama gets old enough to leave the island, he heads out on a one-man craft and doesn't look back.

When he washes up on a yet another island shore, he's lucky enough to meet legendary trader Johnny Lingo (George Hanare). While others continue to scoff at the boy, Johnny sees something in him -- even after Tama steals from his treasury.

The kind-hearted man plans to have the boy succeed him as the next Johnny Lingo (it's more of a title than an actual name, you see). But in his heart, the now-teenage Tama (Joe Falou) longs to find Mahana, the only person who's ever really understood or cared about him.

In attempting to expand the story, director Steven Ramirez and screenwriter Riwia Brown have, unfortunately, come up with some pretty tiresome shtick and pointless story digressions.

The young performers here are attractive enough, but they do have a hard time delivering convincing performances. Simei-Barton is particularly stiff and never really makes the selfish Tama sympathetic.

Veteran New Zealand actor Hanare is the film's strongest asset -- aside from the scenic Kiwi and Cook Island locations. However, Rawiri Parantene is wasted in a go-nowhere role (he's put to better use in the considerably more winning "Whale Rider").

"The Legend of Johnny Lingo" is rated G, though it does contain some mild vulgarity and some slapstick violence. Running time: 90 minutes.

Tama (Tausani Simei-Barton) learns the ropes on Johnny Lingo's island in the South Seas adventure "The Legend of Johnny Lingo."

A lush retelling of 'Johnny Lingo'

By: Sean P. Means
Date: 29 August 2003
Source: Salt Lake Tribune

** 1/2 [2.5 stars out of 4]

A well-known tale (at least in these parts) gets a good-looking revision

Gorgeously shot and unapologetically wholesome, "The Legend of Johnny Lingo" manages to overcome its weaknesses -- and its ancestry as a famously cornball Brigham Young University-produced short -- with gentle humor and sweetness.

The original "Johnny Lingo," made in 1969 and shown forever in LDS seminary classes, tells of a South Pacific trader who descends on an island and offers a wedding dowry of eight cows for the hand of the unattractive Mahana (a k a Mahana-You-Ugly). In the original (adapted from Patricia McGerr's short story, Johnny Lingo's Eight-Cow Wife), Johnny and Mahana return a year later, and she is a beauty -- made so by the self-worth bestowed by Johnny's exorbitant eight-cow offering.

The new movie, produced by the team who made the Mormon-missionary drama "The Other Side of Heaven," begins with Johnny Lingo's origins. He is an orphaned baby who washes ashore and is immediately declared a gift from the gods by the island's tribal chief (played by Rawiri Parantene, who played the grandfather in "Whale Rider"), who names him Tama. Soon, gossipmongers turn Tama (played as a boy by Tausani Simei-Barton) into an outcast, with his only friend the equally outcast girl Mahana (Fokikovi Soakimi).

It's a long and occasionally contrived road that turns young Tama into Johnny Lingo (played as an adult by Joe Falou, one of the stars of "The Other Side of Heaven") and brings him back to Mahana (Kayte Ferguson). The script, by New Zealand writer Riwia Brown ("Once Were Warriors"), sometimes bogs down in its own sap -- and its gratuitous plugs for "the juice of the noni" (the manufacturer of Tahitian Noni fruit drink is one of the movie's backers).

First-time director Steven Ramirez (who was editor on "The Other Side of Heaven") tells the story with an unmannered directness, though he relies too much on the power-ballad-heavy soundtrack. But he makes fine use of the New Zealand locations and talent pool, and he invests "The Legend of Johnny Lingo" with an earnestness that makes the story's corniness easier to take.

The dilemma: Stick to niche, or cross over?

By: Sean P. Means
Date: 29 August 2003
Source: Salt Lake Tribune

Here they come again. In the next month, three new entries in the genre known as Mormon Cinema -- movies made by LDS filmmakers and/or covering LDS themes -- will debut in Utah.

"The Legend of Johnny Lingo," based on a popular BYU-produced short film, gets a lush retelling that opens in theaters today in Utah, and in several markets nationwide. A satire of LDS filmmaking, "The Work and the Story," will debut today in three Utah locations (Logan's CineFour and two comedy clubs, The Independent in Midvale and Johnny B's in Provo) in advance of a planned theatrical release in October. And what may be the granddaddy of Mormon Cinema, "The Book of Mormon Movie, Vol. 1," is set to hit theaters Sept. 12.

More are coming down the pipeline. The makers of "The Singles Ward" will be back with "The Home Teachers" in January and a missionary comedy, "The Best Two Years," in February. A drama about Mormons fighting in World War II, "Saints and Soldiers," is now on the festival circuit.

It's a given that these films will have a built-in following in Utah. But will LDS films and filmmakers find success in the mainstream? Or, more to the point, should they?

John Garbett, one of the producers of "The Legend of Johnny Lingo," said his film has mainstream appeal -- and that it is the movie's roots that are Mormon, not the movie itself.

"We've screened the movie with enough audiences all over the country that we know that it works, and we know that people get it," Garbett said.

The movie already is being sold to non-LDS audiences. It opens today not only in Utah but in Atlanta, Dallas, Phoenix and Las Vegas. The movie has been sold to MGM for distribution internationally and through parts of the United States.

"Johnny Lingo" is the story of a South Pacific boy who grows from an outcast to a great island trader -- and keeps a promise to the one girl, the maligned Mahana, who cared for him.

The movie is based on a 1969 short produced by Brigham Young University, which became a favorite for LDS seminary classes. In the BYU version, the girl is known as "Mahana-You-Ugly," and much is made of the trader's payment of a wedding dowry of eight cows -- a high price that raises her self-esteem and makes her feel, and thus look, beautiful.

Though the new version doesn't emphasize the self-esteem lesson, it is a story, Garbett said, "about the power of love."

"The challenge may be for people who are familiar with the BYU version to free their minds, if you will," he said. "The folks who are seeing it outside of the LDS culture are seeing it as a wonderful family film."

Garbett and his producing partner, Gerald R. Molen (who produced "Schindler's List," "Jurassic Park" and "Hook" for Steven Spielberg), came together on the biggest hit in Mormon Cinema, "The Other Side of Heaven." That missionary drama, made for $7 million, earned about $4.7 million at the box office (according to the Web site and was snapped up for video distribution by Walt Disney's Buena Vista Home Entertainment.

"We both describe ourselves as filmmakers who happen to be Mormon, rather than Mormon filmmakers," Garbett said.

"The Other Side of Heaven" represents part of the first wave of Mormon Cinema -- along with the missionary dramedy "God's Army" and the small-town murder mystery "Brigham City," the two films by pioneering LDS filmmaker Richard Dutcher.

Dutcher has tried the crossover route, and he doesn't see the need to try it again.

"I don't believe that crossover is absolutely necessary for the survival of the genre," Dutcher said. "In fact, I think it's a pretty healthy little niche, even if it doesn't cross over. It's a pretty loyal audience."

For any niche audience -- black or gay or LDS -- the danger of trying to cross over to a mainstream audience is losing your core, Dutcher said. He cites the example of the video sales of "Brigham City," which were handled by a mainstream distributor. The company marketed that PG-13 movie with cover art befitting an R-rated slasher film -- a real turnoff to the LDS audience.

"What I would have gained in a really concentrated marketing effort on the LDS market, I did not make up in the mainstream audience," Dutcher said.

Dutcher's advice for LDS filmmakers seeking to cross into the mainstream: Just make a good movie, and let the rest sort itself out.

"If they can achieve some excellence in that niche, then there's automatically some crossover," he said.

Crossing over has been of little concern to the people at HaleStorm Entertainment, whose LDS-exclusive comedies "The Singles Ward" and "The R.M." represent Mormon Cinema's second wave.

"It's so much easier to market to a niche," said Jed Ivie, publicist for HaleStorm. "We know where we can find them. We know where the LDS people are. We know where the stakes are."

"The Work and the Story" takes aim at that second wave, what director/star Nathan Smith Jones calls "the gold rush" of LDS filmmakers trying to repeat Dutcher's box-office success of "God's Army" (which made $2.6 million, about 10 times what it cost to make).

The satire is a mock-documentary, following a pretentious LDS filmmaker (played by Jones) trying to claim the mantle of "the Mormon Spielberg" after Dutcher (who plays himself) mysteriously goes missing.

("The Work and the Story" features another constant of LDS films: Kirby Heyborne, who starred in "The R.M.," appeared in "The Singles Ward" and has roles in "The Book of Mormon Movie" and "Saints and Soldiers.")

The script for "The Work and the Story" (the title is a spoof on the popular book series "The Work and the Glory") was written in 2001, just as "Brigham City" was hitting theaters. Some jokes poke fun at the members-only humor of some LDS films (even adding subtitles to explain arcane LDS terms). Other jokes -- like references to a Book of Mormon movie and a World War II LDS film -- are now coming to pass.

"We filmed it a year ago, but it's even funnier now," said Quent Casperson, the movie's producer.

If an LDS movie is going to cross over into the mainstream, it may take satire, said University of Utah writing instructor John-Charles Duffy.

Duffy suggested that the oft-cited example of "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" -- a low-budget niche-market movie that made it big -- "involves a lot of satire of the Greek-American community. It's a little hard for me to imagine that happening in Mormon film."

Too much of the humor in Mormon films is "insider humor," Duffy said. "People may have a quick sense of what it means to be Greek-American. I'm not so sure they have that same kind of sense of what it means to be Mormon."

Some LDS filmmakers, though, will still try to change that. The third wave of Mormon Cinema is on.

Go to "The Legend of Johnny Lingo" page 8