A HaleStorm Entertainment, Inc. presentation of a HomeComing production. Produced by Dave Hunter. Executive producers, Kurt Hale, Hunter. Directed by Kurt Hale. Screenplay, John E. Moyer, Hale.
Jared Phelps/The R.M. - Kirby Heyborne
Kori - Will Swenson
Kelly Powers - Britani Bateman
Emma Phelps - Tracy Ann Evans
Brigham Phelps - Merrill Dodge
Duey - Michael Birkeland
Sariah Phelps - Maren Ord
Humu - Leroy "Big Budah" Te'o
Defense Lawyer - Curt Doussett
Current Reviews... Good-natured and innocuously wholesome, "The R.M." marks a reunion for the collaborators behind last year's similarly Mormon-themed "The Singles Ward," including writer-director-producer Kurt Hale, co-screenwriter John E. Moyer and actors Kirby Heyborne and Will Swenson. Pic, now expanding past its target religious niche audience in Utah and other states with large Latter Day Saints populations, should finish in the ballpark of "The Singles Ward's" $1.5 million domestic theatrical take, with brisk video biz to follow.
Pic's title is LDS patois for a "Returned Missionary," in this case a wide-eyed young lad named Jared (Heyborne), who sets out for his two years of mandatory church service certain that, upon his return, the life he left behind will be waiting for him. Two years later, though, no one remembers to greet him at the airport upon his return. Worse, his girlfriend (Erin M. Robert) has become engaged to another man, the company he worked for has gone out of business, and his family has sold his car and given his bedroom to a Tongan exchange student (Salt Lake City radio personality Leroy "Big Budah" Te'o). Post-mission life becomes something of, well, a living "heck." Having blown his life savings on an engagement ring he can't return, Jared tries his hand at a variety of odd jobs, from waitering to telemarketing -- all of which he fails at spectacularly. Meanwhile, he finds himself increasingly tempted by the wayward life embraced by best friend, Kori (Will Swenson). It's all enough to drive a man to drink, which in Jared's case means sidling up to a bar and ordering (gasp!) a Diet Coke. "The R.M." climaxes in a protracted and needlessly didactic courtroom sequence wherein Jared --implicated in one of Kori's fraternity pranks -- must decide whether to stick to his upstanding, truth-telling ways (even if it means possible jail time) or take the easy (but sinful) way out.
Pic ambles along as a string of hit-and-miss, loosely strung together comic episodes, much along the lines of "The Singles Ward," but with more universally accessible humor. Still, there's more than enough reference to Orin Hatch and Tonga (the New Zealand island that has long been a hotbed of LDS missionary activity) to keep the uninitiated scratching their heads, while offering pic's target audience intrinsic kitsch value.
"The R.M." reps an overall advance on "The Singles Ward," with Heyborne and Swenson continuing to make decent comic foils for each other as a kind of Mormon Martin & Lewis. And while pic's ultra-low budget and Hale's sitcom-esque directing style are conspicuous, they hardly cripple what is a fundamentally modest and self-effacing venture.
As in "The Singles Ward," pic's soundtrack is comprised almost exclusively of Mormon children's songs and religious hymns, performed by an assortment of name Mormon musical artists. As pic's press notes declaim: "Mixing the often-staid LDS/Christian church hymns with a modern rock beat really brings them to life." Who's to argue?
Camera (Deluxe color), Ryan Little; editor, Wynn Hougaard; music, Cody Hale; production designer, Doug Ellis; art director, Cory Lorenzen; set decorator, Anne Black; sound, Jeff Carter; associate producers, Wally Joyner, Todd Pedersen, Eric Martinis, Keith Nellesen, Mark Comer, Steve Black, MTCCookies.com, Brad Plowman, Will Swenson, Don Ainge; casting, Michelle Wright. Reviewed on videocassette, Los Angeles, Sept. 4, 2003. Running time: 102 MIN.
With: Wally Joyner, Jericho Road, Gary Crowton, Rulon Gardner, Larry H. Miller, Jimmy Chunga, Ruth Hale, Ruth Todd, Randall Carlisle, Scott Christopher, Lincoln Hoppe, Mitch English
Kirby Heyborne is faced with ethical dilemmas in "The R.M.," a dark comedy of mishaps and misadventures.
About a month ago, I finally sat down to watch Singles Ward. Why did it take me so long to see it? Quite frankly, it just looked stupid to me. I guess I'm not what you'd call a member of it's target audience. Much to my delight, I enjoyed Single's Ward. Sure, some of the jokes didn't work, but most of them did. I look at Singles Ward as the LDS version of Animal House. Certainly I'm not suggesting that it was as good as the John Landis classic, but I could definitely see shades of Animal House in there.
The R.M. is an over the top comedy that examines the life of a return missionary. Upon his uneventful homecoming, Jared Phelps arrives at the airport stunned to find that no one is there to pick him up. And that's only the beginning as he soon discovers that much has changed in the two year he was away.
It's obvious that The R.M. is an ode to the works of 80's icon John Hughes for most of the plot bears an uncanny resemblance to Sixteen Candles. Not only does Brother Phelps' family forget his return because of their daughter's wedding plans (there are other reasons as well), but they even have a foreign exchange student living in their house. Granted he's Tongan as opposed to Asian, but it's virtually the same scenario. Yes, there is more to The R.M. but the basic framework is very Sixteen Candles.
The cast is decent. Lead actor Kirby Heyborne does a fine job exhibiting the confusion of his situation, but most of this stuff is just too over the top. Will Swenson (who was hilariously brash in Singles Ward) provides much needed energy as Phelps' life long friend Kori. The rest of the cast just sort of coasts through.
I guess the big problem with The R.M. is in the writing. Kurt Hale wants the movie to be over the top, but there needs to be some kind of a limit. And while The R.M. isn't without funny moments (the informercial bit was a hoot), most of the jokes don't work. Singles Ward had an energy that this movie is sorely lacking. Plus, that picture had a plethora of hilarious cameos. The R.M. has very few.
Even though I'm not LDS, I understood all the "inside" jokes in The R.M. I just didn't find a lot of them very funny. I also got pretty bored with the stereotypes in this picture. Every time Humu (the Tongan exchange student) was on screen, he was stuffing his face with food. Again, you have to set limits. I did appreciate the fact that this movie is just trying to have good clean fun. I also applaud the fact that it isn't a big, preachy church lesson. Still, for a comedy to work, it has to have lots of laughs and there weren't quite enough in this picture for me to recommend it. I can, however, recommend Singles Ward, a movie I expected to hate but ended up enjoying. The R.M., by comparison, doesn't quite get there. This is strange given that The R.M. is certainly going for a broader audience with a bigger, more prominent aspect of the church. Sadly, it didn't work out that way. Sometimes less is more.
Here's a batch of new DVDs intended to be family-friendly, but, as always, some are more successful at reaching out to a wide audience than others...
- "The R.M." (Halestorm, 2003, PG, $23.95). The "Singles Ward" guys are at it again, but this one, about the misadventures of a returned missionary (Kirby Heyborne -- is he in every Mormon movie?), validates the law of diminishing returns. If anything, the Mormon stereotypes are even more exaggerated, but the laughs are much more scattered. There are probably enough gags to have LDS viewers nodding their heads (from a returned missionary being jilted by the girl back home to last-minute home teaching), but it's a pretty weak skit film. (And the audio commentary has too many voices talking over each other; they're having more fun than you will.)
Extras: Widescreen, audio commentary, outtakes, deleted scenes, trailers, music videos, etc.
Jared Phelps (Kirby Heyborne) takes a job as a waiter after returning from an LDS mission in "The R.M." Mormon stereotypes abound.
This article also contained brief reviews or descriptions of the following other new DVD releases: The Lion King: Platinum Edition; The Italian Job (1969); The Italian Job; Scooby-Doo! and the Monster of Mexico; The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron, Boy Genius: Sea of Trouble; Maurice Sendak's Little Bear: Feel Better, Little Bear; Dora the Explorer: Meet Diego!
...[Larry H.] Miller aids Mormon Cinema in other ways. His Megaplex theaters have booked several titles, and Jordan Commons is the preferred premiere site for LDS filmmakers. ("The Book of Mormon Movie," for one, had its gala premiere there in September.) He made a cameo in "The R.M.," and allowed that movie to shoot several scenes at Jordan Commons (that's the Mayan doubling as "Book of Mormon Burger").
...And from the team who brought you "Singles Ward" and "The R.M." comes a third... "The Home Teachers."...
...Mormon audiences will be glad to know HaleStorm Entertainment is releasing a straight-to-video stand-up comedy show titled "It's Latter-day Night," pun intended...
...Some comedians are better than other comedians and some jokes are funnier than other jokes, but everyone who watches the show will find humor at different times. If you liked "The Singles Ward" or "The R.M.," you'll enjoy this DVD.