The producers of The Singles Ward are at it again. Their new movie, The R.M. will open at theatres in Utah on January 31.
The R.M. is the story of Jared Phelps, a newly returned missionary, who expects his life to be normal. However, Phelps, played by Kirby Heyborne, soon discovers his life is anything but normal. His family sold their home while he was gone and his girlfriend is engaged to someone else.
"Jared is a really down to earth guy," Heyborne said. "Just your average Joe, when all hell breaks out on him."
Heyborne said when he returned home from his mission he was naive like his character in the movie.
The R.M. doesn't have as many inside jokes as The Singles Ward; however, many will find a similarity between the names of the members of the Phelps family and the scriptures, Heyborne said.
"All of his family are hard-core Mormons so they have Bible names," he said.
Kurt Hale, writer, director and producer of The R.M. said the movie is based on experiences from several returned missionaries and believes this movie will be more universal than The Singles Ward was.
"There's tons of experiences that I'm drawing on from my own, having come home from a mission," Hale said. "We've taken every bad thing that's happened to a missionary and dumped them on this guy. It's kind of a modern day version of Job."
Just like its predecessor, well-known celebrities including Wally Joyner, Jericho Road, Gary Crowton, Jimmy Chunga and Larry H. Miller, fill The R.M. with cameo appearances.
Jed Ivie, public relations specialist for Halestorm Entertainment, said they don't pay any of the celebrities.
"We just called up Larry H. Miller and asked if he would do it," he said.
Other returned missionaries say they can relate to Heyborne's miss-fit character.
Stephen Frandsen, a 21-year-old junior from Spanish Fork, Utah majoring in music, said he had a hard time adjusting when he came home from his mission.
"I thought my life as I knew it had ended," Frandsen said. "There wasn't anything to do at home because all the people that weren't missionaries weren't really doing anything of worth, except worrying about themselves all the time."
Frandsen, who returned home from his mission six months ago, said it was difficult to shift his focus from missionary life to real life.
"I was attending parties that didn't involve people getting in water, and eating potluck dinners and crying about their families," he said. "All of a sudden, all your activities are for yourself instead of focusing on helping others."
Frandsen said although he has tried to adjust to being home, he still has not fully adjusted.
"I've tried to learn to jump back into things quickly," he said. "But, I'm a slow learner and I'm afraid I'm still a little bit strange at times."
Eric Fors, a 22-year-old junior from La Canada, Calif. majoring in business has been home from his mission for seven months.
"I'd heard horror stories about people coming home," he said.
His family told him he had 'the missionary voice' and Fors said he knew he had to find a balance between his mission life and his life at home.
"My philosophy was, you have to find a comfortable balance between the two," Fors said. "I thought that for those two years my mission was to preach the gospel, but after those two years, if I were to follow the same mission routine, I wouldn't be completing my new mission, which is to develop myself spiritually, physically, intellectually and socially; whereas, for the mission it was just two years of spiritual development."
Dom Moore, a 22-year-old junior from Bountiful, Utah, majoring in public and not-for-profit management, said for the first couple of weeks he had his brother go with him everywhere he went.
"I was very happy when I came home," he said. "It was a little awkward, but I loved being home. I missed missionary work, but I was really glad to see my family after two years."
After the movie opens in Utah, it is scheduled to open in Idaho, Arizona, California and select cities in the eastern United States, Hale said.
Hale said his office gets e-mails daily from people all over the world saying how much they enjoyed The Singles Ward.
"The Singles Ward just kind of grabbed so many people of our faith," he said. "It became this cult classic."
Ivie said after The Singles Ward, they realized that comedy was the way to go in the LDS genre.
"We are already predicting that it (The R.M.) will be much more successful than The Singles Ward," Ivie said. "With The R.M., there's so much publicity."
Two other movies are in the works, The Home Teachers and Church Ball. The Home Teachers will begin filming in June and Church Ball won't be until 2004, Ivie said.
Open auditions will be held in Utah and Heyborne said he anticipates being in the next movie, The Home Teachers.
PARK CITY -- If you're among the 2 million or so Utahns who did not attend the Sundance Film Festival in 2002, perhaps you have a few questions about the annual celluloid celebration.
For example: Why can't it be held at Jordan Commons or Landing or somewhere else with comfortable seats that recline?
Answer: Because the Super Dell/Dan the Laptop Man commercials played at those theaters would be highly offensive to our guests, and we don't want to scare them away until they've dropped oodles of cash in Park City.
In that spirit, and with the festival only days away (Thursday), we proudly present this independent film Q&A. Consider it a "Sundance for Dummies" -- if for no other reason than it was answered by an expert dummy.
Question: What is the Sundance Film Festival?
Answer: According to Park City and Utah, it's a jackpot. The local economic impact for the 2002 festival was nearly $35 million. (No, that wasn't how much it cost one family to stay in a Deer Valley suite.)
According to Parkites and Utahns, it's a once-in-a-non-Olympic-year chance to rub shoulders with celebrities.
According to the Sundance Institute, it's "an exhibition of work that showcases the best of independent cinema." And that no longer means the films are "independent" of any audiences. Some box office biggies have come out of this elite festival, including "The Blair Witch Project" and "Four Weddings and a Funeral."
More than 100 feature-length films and documentaries, as well as 60 shorts, will be shown during the 10-day event, which runs from Thursday through Jan. 26.
Question: How many people attend Sundance?
Answer: A whole lot. Last year, the festival attracted 14,100 out-of-state visitors and 6,335 Utah residents -- or approximately the number of people who stood in line for hours outside of the ROOTS store during the Olympics. Most of the 20-some-odd thousand are PR people, media members and sponsors. Others include directors, actors, entourages, wannabes of the aforementioned, star gawkers, vendors and, yes, even a few art lovers who simply appreciate independent moviemaking.
Question: Where will independent films such as "Singles Ward" and "The R.M." be shown?
Answer: Nowhere. Not even at LDS stake centers. The closest thing to a local film is "The Maldonado Miracle," a Salma Hayek-directed piece that was filmed in Eureka.
[Select list of hot upcoming music events in the Salt Lake area.]
THE R.M. PARTIES
Hot on the heels of last year's The Singles Ward (groan if you must) comes The R.M., another homespun LDS comedy about the comedy of being LDS, opening Jan. 31. As with The Singles Ward, there's a soundtrack album of tongue-in-cheek Mo'tunes to accompany it, this time around featuring Utah talents Ryan Shupe, Maren Ord, Ponchillo, Clay and Sweet Haven (performing Thursday), as well as Sugarland Run, Jamen Brooks, Jerrytown and Debra Fotheringham (Friday). Notably absent from both The R.M.'s soundtrack and these acoustic CD-release bashes are Jericho Road -- what kind of party is complete without those studs? Thursday, Jan. 23-Friday, Jan. 24 @ Muse Music, 145 N. University Ave., Provo, 8 p.m.
* * [2 out of 4 stars]
"From the makers of The Singles Ward" -- are you cringing yet? Well, cut Kurt Hale and company a little slack, because they seem to be learning -- slowly but surely -- that a comedy should have actual jokes and not just signifiers of Mormon culture. Kirby Heyborne stars as the titular returned missionary Jared Phelps, whose re-introduction to the real world proves considerably bumpier than he anticipated. And yes, that means plenty more gags about Relief Society, food storage, Elders Quorum and LDS scriptures that would leave many a gentile scratching his head, plus some leaden slapstick. But some of the humor and supporting performances actually work as more than a huge in-joke, and Heyborne's an appealing self-effacing presence in the lead role. Is there a Stake Amateur Hour quality still present in much of the content and filmmaking style? Sure, but you've seen plenty of less-amusing comedies come out of Hollywood. And if that's darning with faint praise, so be it. Opens Jan. 31 at theaters valley-wide.