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"THE OTHER SIDE OF HEAVEN"
You MUST check it out!
It is an inspirational Family film!
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Also highly recommended:
A wonderful Family film:
It will soon be out on video, so check it out!
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Editors' Take on the Motion Pictures Ratings System:
We are aware that there are plenty of Parents out there who feel that no matter what the age of their teenagers (from 13 through 19) that they should let their teenagers choose whatever film they wish to see.
These Parents have the attitude that "Well, they will learn about life soon enough, anyway."
We will dedicate these following words of wisdom to those particular parents.
First, some questions:
1- Have you seen what a PG movie has to offer, lately?
2- Are you aware that in the movie "Titanic" there was a nude scene totaling 6 minutes?
3- An NC-17 rating used to be an "X" rating not so long ago!
When the rating was switched to an NC-17, it took the stigma away from a rating which was equated with hard-core pornography.
So, no longer is it necessary for a hard-core pornography movie to show at ONLY sleazy side-of-the-road movie houses.
That's right, folks. An NC-17 flick can now be shown at a theatre near you -- playing right beside a Disney movie!
Can anything be worse than that? Well, YES!
An NC-17 rating means no one under seventeen is allowed.
SEVENTEEN! Meanwhile, an "R" rating (which is for a milder contents movie) has an EIGHTEEN or over rating!
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We will have some really good links for you shortly,so we can take you directly to the source where you can sound off.
You simply cannot trust the ratings system to call the shots for you, in terms of what movies your kids should see.
We would hope that Parents become involved in their children's lives, so that they can assist them with making the proper choices for movie entertainment.
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** 1/2 out of four stars
PG; protagonist in peril
Not all coming-of-age movies concern sexual awakenings. This is a sweetly told, true-life story, set in the 1950s, about a young Mormon missionary from a small town in Idaho who is sent to the tiny Pacific island of Niuatoputapu, part of Tonga.
John Groberg (Christopher Gorham of TV's "Felicity") is the only white person on the island and one of only two who speak English. To survive, he's forced to rely on his wits and his faith.
But the film does little proselytizing. It was neither made nor endorsed by the Mormon hierarchy. The movie doesn't examine Groberg's religious convictions. Rather, his unshakable faith is taken as a given around which the rest of the story unfolds.
First-time writer-director Mitch Davis, in the opening credits, makes too much of the fact that the movie is based on Groberg's memoirs. A couple of episodes, including one in which he's on a boat that gets caught in a tropical storm, lose suspense because we already know he survived, or he wouldn't have been able to write those memoirs.
The best scenes are the ones involving humor. Struggling to get a grip on the local language, Groberg begins his mission by announcing proudly that he's serving as one of God's outhouses.
This story of a Mormon missionary has a message for teens -- if they're paying attention.
A current television commercial for "The Other Side of Heaven" trumpets the fact that it stars Anne Hathaway from "The Princess Diaries" and was produced by Gerald Molen, a veteran nuts-and-bolts man who counts "Schindler's List" and "Jurassic Park" among his credits.
Overall, the commercial suggests an exotic, youthful romance in the vein of "Blue Lagoon," tailor-made for preteen girls.
So much for truth in advertising. Hathaway appears but briefly in the movie, and the actual plot deals with a Mormon missionary's adventures on the Polynesian island of Tonga sometime in the 1950s. Not exactly manna for the "Crossroads" crowd, if you catch my meaning.
Still, for a dogma-driven drama that's essentially a pious, less-cynical version of "40 Days and 40 Nights," it's not all that insufferable. As John Grosjean [Groberg] - the Idaho-bred missionary on whose memoirs the movie is based - actor Christopher Gorham turns in an earnest, milky performance that neatly taps into the national teen abstinence debate.
He's separated from his college girlfriend (Hathaway), and Elder Grosjean's [Groberg's] two-year assignment on Tonga turns into a test of his sexual self-mastery as well as his aptitude at converting heathens, a fact that writer-director Mitch Davis illustrates with apt discretion when a stunning island girl (Mariama Smith) drops her skirt and offers herself to the rattled (but clearly intrigued) holy man. At the very least, Grosjean's [Groberg's] close encounter reminds us where the term "missionary position" came from.
Non-Latter Day Saints might suspect that the movie - financed outside the LDS church - is nothing more than a recruiting film, but it steers clear of religious didacticism. On the peachiness scale, it rates no higher than, say, "Hart's War."
Ultimately, the thing that prevents "The Other Side of Heaven" from rising above mediocre-movie territory is a simple lack of sophistication.
Grosjean [Groberg] comes off as a bit of nimrod ("They say it's good manners to belch after a meal!") and Davis asks us to swallow some pretty hefty helpings of romantic fancy - for instance, that Brigham Young University was once a happening, swing-dancing hot spot.
Not in this lifetime.
** 1/2 [2 1/2 stars out of 4]
Protagonists of major films have been narrowed down to a few readily marketable types: randy college students, randy singletons, superheroes, police officers, lawyers, doctors and, of course, serial killers and vampires. In many ways, movies are becoming as restricted as television. So it's refreshing to see an offbeat independent film showcasing a young, idealistic missionary. But like the film's Mormon missionary protagonist, "The Other Side of Heaven" is a bit dull and earnest.
Written and directed by Brigham Young University graduate and former Disney employee Mitch Davis and based on "In the Eye of the Storm," the memoirs of former Mormon missionary John H. Groberg, "The Other Side of Heaven" starts out badly.
The music over the opening credits is so obnoxiously "inspirational," I was exhausted before the film even began. In early scenes set at Brigham Young University in the early 1950s, students at a college hop are listening to a Bill Haley and the Comets tune and gyrating to the music like the cast of "Grease." Hey, didn't religious organizations condemn rock 'n' roll and forbid their followers to listen to it? Whatever.
As ridiculously over the top as these scenes are, they establish the sweet-natured identity of John Groberg (Christopher Gorham) and his ardent but chaste love for Jean Sabin (a very perky Anne Hathaway). Like other young Mormons, John will devote a couple of years to missionary work overseas. In his case, he's sent off to the South Sea island of Tonga (the film was shot in New Zealand and the Cook Islands).
There, he's on his own and ordered to learn the language and establish a kingdom. Despised by a rival native minister, tormented by mosquitoes and flesh-eating rats and dubbed "Kolipoki" by the locals, John nevertheless makes friends.
In scenes that strain credulity, he learns the language in four days using a technique that appears to combine study, prayer and yoga and later raises a native boy from the dead. He also helps a sodden tough redeem himself and converts a native couple while resisting the eagerly proffered charms of the couple's daughter, who wants to have his baby. Through it all John and Jean write to one another pledging their troth.
If this sounds a bit square, especially in comparison to similar films such as "Hawaii" (1966) and the more recent "Black Robe" (1991), it is. "The Other Side of Heaven" should have been more Somerset Maugham and less Walt Disney. But Gorham has a guileless charm reminiscent of '40s and '50s leading man Robert Hutton and a little guileless charm goes a long way in these cynical times.
("The Other Side of Heaven" contains two sexually suggestive scenes.)
The Other Side of Heaven is not just a well-intentioned film, it's a well-realized film.
It tells the story of John Groberg, a Mormon missionary who was sent to the remote South Pacific island of Tonga in the '50s.
He couldn't have been more unprepared. He couldn't speak the language and he knew nothing of the customs, but in three years he inspired his tiny flock and became a better person.
Christopher Gorham is an excellent choice as Groberg.
He looks so young and frail yet is able to project the inner strength and faith Groberg needed.
Through his script and direction, Mitch Davis does not shy away from showing how Mormons spread their religion, but he does not preach and that is the movie's greatest virtue.
It is solid entertainment that has sincere and important messages about tolerance, acceptance, understanding and faith.
*** [3 out of 5 stars]
[Excerpt from article.]
An interesting byproduct of "God's Army" and "Brigham City" is the proliferation of Mormon movies that have followed: "The Other Side of Heaven," "Out of Step" and "Singles Ward" already this year, with several more on the way. And on May 20, Dutcher starts shooting his ambitious Joseph Smith biopic, to be filmed in western New York and Canada.
Of his becoming the godfather of LDS cinema, Dutcher says, "I have mixed feelings. Naturally, I have a particular vision in hopes for what Mormon filmmmaking will be, and some of these films give me anxiety. But of the other films, this little 'Out of Step' movie that hardly received any kind of release at all, I was very pleased with that. I was also very pleased with the production values of 'The Other Side of Heaven.' I think that's been a good film for the Mormon genre, the Mormon niche, just because kind of looks wonderful."
But he does have a concern about the market being big enough to accommodate so many all at once.
"It is kind of thrilling," Dutcher said. "When 'Out of Step' came out, I picked up the paper that day and saw that three LDS movies were playing in theaters the same weekend. But I don't understand why they all were all out in the same market at the same time; three films fighting for the same audience. I'd prefer to see one come out after another. That's one thing I think the Mormon film community will have to learn, to be cooperative and not competitive."
A few producers see potential in films that have Christian themes but don't preach
Frustrated with Hollywood, which has shied away from making films with spiritual themes or religious characters, a handful of independent producers are striking out on their own to make Christian-themed films that seek to entertain more than preach.
"There are a lot of people within the religious community that are just hungering for a high-quality film with a spiritual message," says Bob Beltz, a Presbyterian minister from Littleton, Colo., and co-producer of "Joshua," which will be released next month. Based on the novel of the same name (which sold 10 million copies), "Joshua" is a G-rated, modern-day parable about a mysterious stranger's effect on the lives of the residents of a small Midwest town.
Mitch Davis directed the recently opened "The Other Side of Heaven" (2001), based on Elder John Groberg's memoirs of his adventures as a Mormon missionary on the South Pacific island nation of Tonga in the 1950s. "It was never our intent to make a movie for Mormons," Davis says. "It was always our intent to make a movie for the world and for a general audience. We're not trying to proselytize with this movie at all, but we're not trying to hide what it's about, either." The hope of these filmmakers and independent producers is that films such as "Joshua" and "The Other Side of Heaven" can build on a grass-roots support within the Christian community and cross over to a more mainstream audience, unlike past independent releases such as "The Omega Code" and "Left Behind: The Movie."
Thanks to evangelical moviegoers, those films were financially successful--"Omega Code" grossed $12.6 million and "Left Behind" sold 2.5 million copies on video, followed by $4.2 million at the box office--but were lacking in production values and were poorly reviewed in the nonreligious press.
Those films, "Joshua" director Jon Purdy says, were "kind of fear-based. They're post-apocalyptic." He says "Joshua" is more hopeful. "It's attempting to portray faith in a positive way. And I think there's a big question in there as to whether or not hope sells versus fear."
"The Other Side of Heaven" has already grossed $2 million since December from a regional release in Utah, Idaho and Texas--states with large Mormon communities--despite never having played on more than 50 screens at once.
That encouraged Excel Entertainment to give the film a national release April 12 on several hundred screens. The film, though panned by major critics, cracked the top 20 and has so far grossed $3.5 million. Artisan Entertainment, which is distributing "Joshua," also wanted to build word-of-mouth with an unorthodox release pattern. Before moving into larger metropolitan areas like Los Angeles, where advertising costs are much higher, it is releasing the film first in areas where religious-themed films have done well.
"Joshua" opened April 19 on 220 screens in 11 states, mostly in the South and Southwest. The film will widen to another 50 cities on Friday and will reach New York and Los Angeles on May 24. "Joshua" is reaching out to mainstream moviegoers with the usual television and newspaper ads, as well as targeting churchgoers with mailings, Web sites and screenings for religious press and leaders. A soundtrack with Christian artists such as Jaci Velasquez, Pete Orta and Point of Grace was put together, and best-selling Christian singer-songwriter Michael W. Smith was brought in to score his first film.
Other independently funded, spiritually themed films have found it a challenge to entice nonreligious moviegoers. The boxing drama "Carman: The Champion," from early last year, grossed only $1.8 million and the wholesome extreme-sports film "Extreme Days" managed only $700,000 last fall.
"Megiddo: The Omega Code 2" (2001), which carried a significantly higher budget--$22 million--than the first, finished with a disappointing $6 million.
Excel's first release, "God's Army" (2000), a drama about Mormon missionaries in Los Angeles, grossed a profitable $2.6 million, but its director Richard Dutcher's darker follow-up, "Brigham City" (2001), made only $800,000.
One encouragement, ironically, has been the success earlier this year of a major studio picture: Warner Bros.' $40-million-grossing "A Walk to Remember," which featured a devout main character and was marketed, in part, to Christian audiences.
Yet, as much as Davis admired that film, "they didn't ever dare in the entire film to say what [the producer of 'A Walk to Remember'] called 'the J-word' and they never dared show anyone praying, because they were afraid to," Davis says.
Budgeted at $8.5 million, "Joshua" is based on the first in a series of novels by the Rev. Joe Girzone. Beltz, minister, co-producer and an author himself, first read the book in 1985 and optioned the movie rights when they became available two years ago.
The film was shot in 23 days near Chicago and briefly in Rome. Director Purdy, who has written scripts exploring religion but doesn't describe himself as religious, was brought in.
"Having someone like me on board probably helped prevent the movie from going in the direction of its worst tendencies and helped create a movie that functions on a dramatic level, that still makes the statements that they wanted to make," he says.
Casting the role of Joshua, a woodcarver who starts rebuilding the town's storm-ravaged Baptist church and draws the ire of a Roman Catholic priest (F. Murray Abraham), was crucial.
"Playing Jesus or someone who might be Jesus is not the sort of thing that a lot of actors want to do," Purdy says. Deciding to cast someone who looked different from the iconic image of Jesus, the filmmakers turned to actor-director Tony Goldwyn, best known for his villainous roles in films such as "Ghost," "The Pelican Brief" and "Kiss the Girls."
Unlike the book, in which Joshua is more of a leader and outright preacher whose identity is apparent early on, Goldwyn in the film "portrays this character just as a person who is admirable and someone you like--someone that does good works but doesn't force it on anyone," Purdy says.
Also, the book's rants against the Catholic bureaucracy and calls for reform were mostly left out of the film. "A real effort was made to dramatize the message and not sermonize it," Purdy says.
"The Other Side of Heaven's" path to the screen started when director Davis read Groberg's 1994 book, "In the Eye of the Storm," and was enthralled with the portrait of Polynesian life seen through the eyes of a callow young man from Idaho. Davis purchased the movie rights and wrote the screenplay, drawing on the memoirs and the saved correspondence between Groberg, now 68, and his family and future wife, Jean, played in the film by Anne Hathaway ("The Princess Diaries").
Davis, a former studio executive who was a missionary in Argentina in the late 1970s, had long wanted to make a film about the missionary experience. "We live in a world where most guys 19 to 21 years of age are hanging out at frat parties with a six-pack and coeds, and while my buddies were doing that I was in this foreign land trying to learn a foreign language, coming of age in a really quick way and in a very profound way," he says. "The Other Side of Heaven" was budgeted at $7 million and filmed in New Zealand and the Cook Islands over 10 weeks.
Christopher Gorham, who plays Groberg, is a non-practicing Protestant who knew little about the Mormon faith before he was cast. He says he learned that the young missionaries are "not a bunch of crazy zealots out trying to ruin cultures. They're young kids and they're idealists and they believe in what they're doing."
But the film is more a coming-of-age story than a religious tract. "It's an adventure and a love story that happens to be about a guy who is a missionary," Davis says.
"The Mormon Church itself isn't really discussed that often in the movie," says Gorham, who was a cast member on the TV series "Popular" and will be in the new Showtime sci-fi series "Odyssey 5" this summer. "I wasn't interested in doing a church film--something that would be shown at all the temples, you know?"
In fact, Davis says, there has been no official support from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which historically has chosen to stay away from commercial ventures.
The companies behind "Joshua" and "The Other Side of Heaven" are banking on families looking for morally uplifting entertainment. Epiphany Films is already developing a sequel to "Joshua" based on another book in the series, "Joshua in the Holy Land," "a story that's obviously extremely relevant today," Beltz says. A prequel with a younger Joshua is also being discussed.
Later this year, Artisan will release the Christian-themed "Jonah: A VeggieTales Movie," the first theatrical film of the popular animated direct-to-video series.
Excel is developing director Dutcher's next project, "The Prophet," based on the life of Mormon Church founder Joseph Smith Jr. Parent company Crusader Entertainment is also producing family-oriented dramas with less of an overt spiritual component, including "Swimming Upstream," with Geoffrey Rush and Judy Davis, about a champion Australian swimmer overcoming a troubled family life, and "Children on Their Birthdays," based on a Truman Capote short story about kids during the Depression, with Christopher McDonald and Sheryl Lee.
Davis, for one, thinks it's high time for a return to making films like "Places in the Heart," "Chariots of Fire" and "Lilies of the Field," "movies that all have a sort of religious element to it without ever making me feel like, 'Oh wow, they want to make me one of them.'"
"How ironic it is that we live in a culture or a society where it's perfectly acceptable to make a movie that helps you get inside the head of a cannibal, and it's kind of hip and politically correct to make that movie, but to make a movie where you try to get inside of the head of someone who believes in God is taboo."
This week, our readers weigh in on LDS cinema and its critics:
You quote Richard Dutcher [in your April 21 column] as saying "I don't want Mormon cinema to be Utah cinema." My question to him is: Then why do you make Mormon cinema that is Utah cinema?
"Brigham City" is definitely targeted to a Mormon audience. It could have been a good movie, but its emphasis on Mormon religious observances diminishes in the eyes of many the ordinances Mormons hold dear (passing the sacrament, blessings, etc.). Also, the observances are either not understood or misunderstood by those who are not familiar with the Latter-day Saint view of the world. Indeed, the movie was classic "Utah" cinema. Had it been filmed as "Anytown U.S.A." with a generic religious population centered around a generic church organization without being so specifically "Utah" and "Mormon," it would likely have had a great appeal to the entire moviegoing population of the country.
I personally dislike the idea of parading sacred Latter-day Saint ordinances across the movie screens in general-attendance movie theaters. These things are much more delicately treated in our church films. Perhaps I am a majority of one, but I have in fact heard many others express the same sentiment.
-- Paul B. Winn
[Means' response] "God's Army" is Mormon cinema, but it is not Utah cinema -- it was shot in Los Angeles, and its main character was from Kansas -- and its popularity outside of Utah (albeit largely, though not entirely, with LDS audiences) bears witness to that.
Making "Brigham City" more generic may have broadened its appeal, but it would have destroyed the story. The main character, Wes Clayton (played by Dutcher), is both the sheriff and his ward's bishop -- and it is the conflict between those roles that creates the movie's tension. Making Wes a generic preacher would not have worked, because in most other churches, a minister doesn't hold down another job.
I thought the LDS rites Dutcher showed illuminated Clayton's story, making it as specific to his character as a Catholic baptism did with Michael Corleone in "The Godfather" or the opening synagogue service did to the single Jewish woman in "Kissing Jessica Stein."
It was unfair to quote [in your April 21 column] the single excerpt from The New York Times as representative of movie reviews of "The Other Side of Heaven." The Times' politically correct reaction is predictable and has nothing to do with the quality of the movie.
-- Robb Cundick
[Means' response] Alas, it was representative. The Rotten Tomatoes Web site (www.rottentomatoes.com), a clearinghouse of movie reviews, listed a lowly 24 percent of critics -- seven out of 29 -- giving "The Other Side of Heaven" a favorable rating (and I was one of the seven). Most complained about the way the Tongans were relegated to second-class status in the film -- but others also talked about its corniness and flat characters.
30 April 2002 - With its nationwide opening a few weeks ago "The Other Side of Heaven" surpassed "God's Army" as the box office leader among "LDS Cinema" films -- movies made by and about Latter-day Saints. But where does it stand among ALL movies about Latter-day Saint main characters, including movies made by non-LDS filmmakers? According to our data, "The Other Side of Heaven" is the 2nd highest grossing movie in which one of the lead characters is openly a Latter-day Saint. It trails only behind the musical "Paint Your Wagon", which was released in 1969 and earned $14.5 million (made with a $20 million budget). That movie took a light-hearted look at Mormon settlements in the West and polygamy. The female lead (played by Jean Seberg) was a long-time Latter-day Saint, and (if I recall correctly) the male leads (Lee Marvin and Clint Eastwood) join the Church at the end of the movie.
Unfortunately, I don't know the box office gross "Melvin and Howard" (1980), but it may have been more than $4 million. Mary Steenburgen won an Academy Award for playing Mormon housewife Lynda Dummar in that movie, and Paul Le Mat played the titular Melvin Dummar, also a Mormon. The real life Dummars were Latter-day Saints, but I don't know if the movie addresses that fact or not.
There are a number of other movies which have made more than "The Other Side of Heaven" and featured Latter-day Saints characters, but the characters were not explicitly identified as Latter-day Saints in the movie, or they weren't the lead characters: Steven Soderbergh's "Ocean's Eleven" had a U.S. gross of $183 million, but its two Mormon characters were only two of Ocean's crew of eleven, and were not as prominent as George Clooney, Brad Pitt and Julia Roberts. Barry Levinson's "Rain Man" (U.S. gross $173 million) features a title character BASED ON a real-life Latter-day Saint, but the story itself is fictional, and the onscreen character is not apparently LDS. (Interestingly enough, the movie was produced by a Latter-day Saint--Jerry Molen, who also has an important role onscreen as an actor -- playing the psychiatrist.) In "Deep Impact" (U.S. gross $140 million) the Latter-day Saint astronaut from Utah ("Dr. Oren Monash") is only maybe the 7th most important character -- and is not explicitly identified onscreen as a Latter-day Saint character. "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" (U.S. gross $102 million) is, of course, about a real-life Mormon, but the movie portrays Butch Cassidy (played by Paul Newman) only after he was no longer active in the Church, and his Church affiliation is never mentioned in the movie. Likewise, Mario Van Peebles's biopic "Panther", about Eldridge Cleaver, does not address the famous Black Panther's later membership in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The Mormon characters in "Donnie Brasco" and "One Night at McCool's" were major characters, but not lead characters.
So while there have been a number of movies with Mormon characters which have earned more than "The Other Side of Heaven," it appears that only one movie that is really, explicitly about Mormons has out-earned it. And that movie -- "Paint Your Wagon" -- used Latter-day Saints largely for comic effect and as a plot device.
"The Other Side of Heaven" contains one of the funniest moments of any movie currently in theaters.
John, a Mormon missionary, is teaching a Tongan man about faith. John shows the man an oyster and says, "There are things we can't see, but are true," opening the oyster to reveal a pearl.
The Tongan man then produces a broad smile and bulging eyes, as if he's never before seen a pearl.
"Now I understand!" he shouts with overexcited glee.
The scene probably wasn't intended to be funny, but it brings the laughs all the same, and reflects the sentiment of the film: all infidels need to be happy is a happy little shove from an enlightened Christian.
Though writer/director Mitch Davis ham-fistedly delivers his messages, the movie is tough not to enjoy.
The proselytizing folly of this film is nowhere near as poorly executed as last year's so-bad-it's-great "Carman: The Champion," but still makes for solid laughs and fast-paced entertainment.
Davis, who based the film on the John Groberg memoir "In the Eye of the Storm," has much to learn in terms of writing believable dialogue and creating character feasibility.
Another mistake Davis made was misusing his only star, Anne Hathaway ("The Princess Diaries"). As John's fiancee, Jean, Hathaway basically sits on a swingset back at home, pining for John, or frolics on the beach in John's fantasies.
Despite its flaws, Davis' picture never fails to entertain. In between all the misfired religious homilies packed into the flick, the filmmaker's genuine, disarming love for faith emerges.
Anthropological thinkers may wince as they watch John (Christopher Gorham) disregard the Tongan culture with his own beliefs, and some non-Mormons may bristle at the religious teachings, but anyone curious about what a Mormon missionary experiences will likely be fascinated.
John's story takes place in the 1950s, when it wasn't as easy to zip to exotic islands by airplane. After a grueling journey by boat, which goes on for weeks, John is thrust into the Tongan society, unable to speak the language, expected to teach the natives and build a church.
With the help of Feki, a Tongan Mormon who serves as his companion, John quickly begins to win over the islanders via a series of miraculous healings.
John may not think much of the Tongan culture, but he genuinely seems to love the people. And it's easy to see why the Tongans like having John around - there's not a problem he can't solve, be it sexual promiscuity, alcoholism or even a coma.
For those who don't mind taking a flier on a religious flick, "The Other Side of Heaven" won't disappoint. Those who'd rather not be preached to for two hours should stay on their own side of heaven.
Weighted Rating: 6.8 [out of 10]
HonestAbe [ 6.0 ]
After seeing this film I am left to wonder how the good people of Tonga ever survived long enough for our main character to arrive and be their salvation. Our hero solves problem after problem with seemingly little difficulty, and all the while is able to avoid changing or growing himself. Can't speak the language? 3 days on a sandbar ought to do it... Dead child? Use a cartoon version of CPR for a few days and all's well... Lost at sea in a wave for wave copy of "A Perfect Storm"? Tread water a bit and you'll be fine...
Unbelievable, poorly scripted, and ultimately forgettable. Sad considering the effects were good, the locations nice, the Samoan actors did a fine job, and the story had real potential.
Maybe next time...
rebel_niq [ 7.5 ]
It is good publicity for Tongan people to be recognized.
Love_Spoon [ 7.5 ]
The Other Side of Heaven is the story of John H. Groberg's Mormon missionary service in the 1950s in Tonga. Now before you quickly choose something else to watch, let me say that aside from sharing religious beliefs with the characters in the story, it was replete with action, adventure, humor, and even a little romance. John Groberg was an innocent, clean-cut missionary from Idaho Falls, Idaho, attending Brigham Young University when the call came to serve his Church in the outstretches of the Tongan islands. It led him on a 3-year adventure that's become the foundation for the rest of his life. Please don't think that the film will preach to you. It simply tells the uplifting tale of a courageous, Christlike young man.
Whatever else there is about The Other Side of Heaven, it has what will probably become one of my most favorite opening scenes for any film this year. The camera follows close behind some college-aged guys and gals as they rush up the steps of a building, rush through a set of doors, and then plunge into the midst of a jitterbug dance that's in full swing with a live band accompaniment. Only then does a title appear on the screen: "Brigham Young University, 1953." BYU might've been a little staid when I was there, but, from the looks of this film, at this time at least, it really knew how to jive.
One of the band members, playing trumpet, spots a girl dancing near the bandstand, and jumps down and decides he's going to dance with her. He deftly cuts in between her and the guy she's already dancing with. The other guy, then, cuts in on him. The cutting contest continues apace, with both of the guys (and the girl they're dancing with) really knowing how to move on the dance floor. It gets the movie off to an exhilarating start, which carries through into the next scene, when the trumpet player, John (Christopher Gorham), strolls with the girl, Jean (Anne Hathaway, recently of "The Princess Diaries"), concluding with their kissing beside a reflected moon -- the energy of the previous scene seems to chase away any corniness that might've arisen out of this. It's too good to last, though. John gets a letter, at his home up the road in Idaho Falls, informing him of his LDS mission assignment, to Tonga, and the movie almost immediately thereafter falls apart into what will become an exasperating mess.
John is shipped out, back and forth across the Pacific, for eighty-three days, before arriving at the island where he is to serve. Without any explanation, he arrives with no knowledge of the native language or customs. The only way he's going to talk to the people about the Gospel is to learn along the way. (The film does not indicate if the Mission Training Center, through which all young men must pass before going out into the mission field, was in existence at this time or not.) There is a pre-existing LDS ward on the island, but it is only hazily defined regarding its membership or size. A rival minister is on the island, as well, but, except for a couple of scenes, he's out of sight for most of the film.
The Tongans are depicted as being simple, remote and rather unknowable, and they're virtually undifferentiated. What do they think about this white guy coming to them and telling them that they must convert to this particular religion? (John's native-born mission companion says at one point that, if John came all this way to talk to them about it, than what he says must be true.) How does it relate to their existing way of life? By comparison, Richard Dutcher, in his 1999 film, God's Army, at least gave us some idea of the pattern and structure that made up the lives of the missionary characters he depicted, and which in turn gave us some understanding as to what their work meant to them and how it affected their lives. In this picture, we aren't even sure how long John's supposed to be out on Tonga. Two years? Four?
Even when he's starving to death after a typhoon, letters fly back and forth between John and Jean -- who, for some reason, never saw him off when he left the States (if a girl isn't going to see her guy for several years straight, she's going to see him off) -- and she appears, occasionally, walking along the shoreline in a flowing white dress and throwing chastely flirtatious looks at the camera. In the meantime, a native Tongan girl (Miriama Smith) approaches John and, as an act of veneration, offers herself to him, and John is shown going buddity-buddity and doing everything except saying the most obvious thing -- that he can't have sex while serving a mission. "Take a day off!" the girl's mother exclaims, but John isn't shown coming up with a quick answer to that, either.
Although based on a real-life person, John, in the movie, is a rather dull person to be stuck with for two hours, and at the end, Gorham, who has been coasting by on the strength of his ingenuous face and strong eyebrows and cheekbones, doesn't look any different when he leaves the island than he did when he arrived. The miasmic ending, which is supposed to show John and Jean finally entering into matrimony after waiting for a good deal of time, is capped by a title card which informs us that the real John and Jean got married in 1957 (which would make John's mission a four-year one), after which they went right back out and performed more mission work among the peoples of the Pacific. John is shown as coming from a large family whose offspring included a total of five brothers alone, plus some sisters. Didn't John and Jean, two strapping, healthy young people, want to start a family of their own? Have some kids to whom John could pass on his experiences among the Tongans, something not a whole lot of people in Idaho Falls would have a chance to do? What exactly did John get out of his experiences with the Tongans? The Other Side of Heaven ends with a scene where John is put up for the night in a modern hotel room, while on his way back to the States, and, unable to use the bed, rolls out his sleeping mat on the floor and goes to sleep there. It's a scene which another motion picture would have used as just the starting point for telling a more richer, insightful story. Here, the quality that charmed John and Jean into going back to the south Pacific never communicates through to the audience.
THE OTHER SIDE OF HEAVEN
A film review by Steve Rhodes
Copyright 2002 Steve Rhodes
RATING (0 TO ****): ** 1/2
Among movie genres, there is one that you probably didn't even know exists, one that is shunned or ridiculed by most mainstream critics who are happy to champion sympathetic films about drug dealers or misunderstood terrorists. The unknown film flavor? Mormon movies.
Before you slam the door in my face faster than you do those freshly scrubbed strangers who come to your door offering you something other than magazine subscriptions, let me point you toward a couple of excellent films that delve into the everyday life of Mormons. The no budgeted GOD'S ARMY, about Mormon missionaries sent to L.A., and the modestly budgeted BRIGHAM CITY, about the hunt for a serial killer in a Mormon community, are both worth looking for. The much more lavishly budgeted THE OTHER SIDE OF HEAVEN, about a Mormon missionary sent to a tropical island, is the first member of the genre that I can't quite recommend. Even if it is a Hollywood class production, the story plays like an after school special on a religious cable network. The movie's messages are quite admirable, but the story is just too cliched and too often strains credulity.
When we first meet John Groberg (Christopher Gorham), he is a happy young man with a gorgeous girlfriend, Jean Sabin (Anne Hathaway, the wonderful star of THE PRINCESS DIARIES). Since he is soon sent around the world from Idaho Falls to a tiny island in the Tongan island chain, Anne Hathaway is seen little in the film. We hear from her frequently in her letters but that is about it. Before he departs they share a magical moment as they swing above the shimmering reflection of the moon on an idyllic lake. Brian J. Breheny's cinematography is stunning throughout.
Once John gets to his assigned island, he encounters everything from foot infection to a typhoon. The most unbelievable part of the picture is the speed in which he becomes fluent in Tongan. Sitting night and day on a sand dune, he reads the bible in Tongan and teaches himself all he needs to know about the language. Although the script is based on John Groberg's autobiographical book, "In the Eye of the Storm," most of the movie suggests that great liberties were probably taken with the truth. Still, if you want a beautiful film with commendable messages, you could do worse than THE OTHER SIDE OF HEAVEN. If you go expecting little, you may find that its images are enough to make the trip worthwhile.
THE OTHER SIDE OF HEAVEN runs 1:53. It is rated PG for "thematic elements and brief disturbing images" and would be acceptable for kids around 7 and up.
The film is playing in nationwide release now in the United States. In the Silicon Valley, it is showing at the AMC theaters.