After two years as a Mormon missionary, Jared Phelps ("The Singles Ward's" Kirby Heyborne) returns home, assuming he'll resume his previous life, until he discovers that his parents have forgotten he's coming home, a Tongan exchange student is occupying his room, his girlfriend has found someone else, his former employer no longer has a job for him -- and his slacker best friend (Will Swenson) has some unorthodox ideas about how Jared can readjust to civilian life in this comedy from "Singles Ward" director Kurt Hale. (101 min.) PG; mature themes.
Kurt Hale, director and co-writer of "Single's Ward" [sic] and "The RM," said the church does not get officially involved with films about LDS culture.
"The church is very quiet about it," he said. "I think that they have another agenda. Nobody has ever come out publicly and said, 'Hey, we like what you're doing.' "
Privately, members of the church have praised his work, Hale said, but the church wants to remain diplomatic about the various movies.
Suddenly Unexpected is expected to appear in theaters once the hoopla dies down for HaleStorm Entertainment's The RM, which opened in Utah theaters in late January and is now playing in Arizona, Nevada and Idaho.
"We don't want to detract from their day in the sun," Mark Potter said.
Kurt Hale of HaleStorm Entertainment agreed that the LDS film market, while growing, cannot bear more than one film well at a time.
"It would be suicide to both projects to release at the same time," Hale said.
Giving a bad review to "The R.M." is akin to scolding a cute puppy that just chewed on your favorite pair of sneakers. You hate to do it, but sometimes you have to do what you have to do.
That brings us to "The R.M.," an earnest, sweet and -- most of the time -- woefully bland comedy about the trials and tribulations of a young man returning home from his Mormon mission.
I desperately wanted to like "The R.M.," with its religious themes of love of family and devotion to church. Unfortunately, sitting through the film is like watching someone else's home movies. Unless you know the family, the jokes just don't work.
Most of those jokes revolve around the Mormon Church. There are gags about Bible-study classes, exchange students from Tonga and large Mormon families. Some of the gags are amusing, but most will leave non-Mormons scratching their heads.
The movie tells the story of Jared Phelps (Kirby Heyborne, who kind of looks like a blonder version of David Arquette), who returns to Utah from his Mormon mission to find his life in turmoil. His parents forget to pick him up from the airport, they've moved without telling him, his girlfriend is engaged to another guy, the job he was promised when he left for his mission doesn't exist anymore and he gets a rejection letter from Brigham Young University.
Making matters worse, his childhood friend Kori (Will Swenson), who declined to go on a mission, is living a carefree life as partying frat boy at a local college. Kori, like Lucifer tempting Eve with the fruit of knowledge, tells Jared he's making the wrong choices and should join the more secular world.
Will Jared be tempted? Will he drink that beer? Will he tell a fib to help out his childhood buddy? And, more importantly, will he ever find a nice girl he can marry?
The answers to all these questions are preordained -- and revealed in a plodding way by director Kurt Hale, who never seems to get the pacing of the film right.
Still, "The R.M." has some pleasant moments and provides some interesting glimpses into modern Mormon life.
And when you think of my normal reaction to a Mormon missionary knocking on my front door -- turning off the television and hiding in the bedroom -- getting me to sit through the entire movie is an accomplishment.
Grade: [3 out of 5]
A Mormon youth (Kirby Heyborne) returns from two years of missionary duty only to find that his life has turned into a country western song: his family has moved away, his girl has dumped him, he's lost his job, etc. The script by John Moyer and director Kurt Hale, like Hale's direction itself, is cheerfully unpretentious and defiantly wholesome, with a sweetness that makes us willing to overlook the frequent awkward touches (some of the bit players are self-consciously amateur, and the climactic courtroom scene is clumsy and overdone). Heyborne makes an appealingly put-upon hero, like a white-bread version of the young Woody Allen, and Britani Bateman is his attractive love interest. Non-Mormons may find themselves scratching their heads at the church-related in-jokes, but much of the film is surprisingly funny.
In Mormon culture, an "R.M." is a returning missionary, and the Latter-day Saints Church-oriented farce with that title tells the story of a young man (Kirby Heyborne) whose return from his obligatory two-year service is the homecoming from hell.
Directed by Kurt Hale -- who made last year's well-received Mormon comedy "Singles Ward" -- it's another witty and highly polished, if very forgettable, satire that pokes self-deprecating fun at the church while strongly reaffirming its values.
The R.M. here is a nerdy guy who has returned to Salt Lake City naively expecting to resume his life just where it left off before he left home to serve God not in the South Seas, Africa or Asia, but in the unglamorous wilds of small-town Wyoming.
He finds, however, his family has all but forgotten him, his girlfriend is engaged to someone else, his old job has been eliminated and all his other expectations are cruelly dashed. Before long he's suffering from PMD -- post missionary depression.
The script is often clever and funny, the cast -- especially Will Swenson, as the R.M.'s prodigal best pal, and Britani Bateman as his new love interest -- are endearing, the direction is competent and the production values are professional.
But the film is aimed squarely at Mormon audiences, it's littered with terms that will make no sense to the unconverted, its purpose is basically didactic and it's in no danger of becoming an ethnic crossover hit on the order of "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" or "Barbershop."
Look for cameo appearances by such noted Mormons as baseball star Wally Joyner, Brigham Young University football coach Gary Crowton, Utah Jazz owner Larry H. Miller, Olympic champion wrestler Rulon Gardner and Salt Lake City TV anchor Ruth Todd.
Rating: 2 stars [out of 4]
Hybrids have become a matter of course among modern movies, but the new Latter-day Saints [sic] comedy, "The R.M.," may be the strangest concoction to date.
It's like an unofficial remake of the 1938 Frank Capra Oscar-winner, "You Can't Take It With You," crossed with your average John Hughes-Molly Ringwald coming-of-age comedy.
Think "Sixteen Candles" made by and for Mormons.
Kirby Heyborne has the role played by Jean Arthur in the Capra film and Molly Ringwald in "Sixteen Candles" -- that of a reasonably sane young person caught in the middle of a large, zany family. He's Jared Phelps, a fledgling Mormon elder -- sort of a younger elder, if you know what I mean. Anyway, he has come home after a lengthy missionary stint. Jared is a returned missionary -- "an R.M." -- and he immediately suffers a post-traumatic experience.
Jared is promptly beset with wacky period-of-adjustment problems and lovable characters. For starters, everyone in his family has forgotten that he was returning home today, just as Ringwald's clan forgot her birthday in "Sixteen Candles."
When Jared arrives at a Utah airport, no one is there to greet him. When he goes to the home where he was born and raised, he finds that it's been sold and a different family is living there.
He finally tracks down his parents and their large brood, which now includes an exchange student from Tonga. Meanwhile, Jared's mother, Emma (Tracy Ann Evans, who has the delivery of a veteran sitcom star), is pregnant again and busy working on her eccentric ice sculptures she designs for Mormon weddings and parties.
Dad (Merrill Dodge, a Paul Dooley look-alike/sound-alike) is also perpetually distracted.
Adding insult to injury, Jared discovers that his longtime girlfriend has dumped him and has taken up with another man.
Now he has no girlfriend to go along with the job he doesn't have. The rest of the film is a series of vignettes as Jared goes from job to job, party to party, sabotaged every step of the way by his incorrigible best friend, Kori Swenson (Will Swenson).
"The R.M." is a strange mess, a dated film (someone kinder would call it "old-fashioned") spruced up with a lot of trendy references and some irreverent, self-deprecating humor. It really is outspoken for a religious-based film, and you have to admire filmmaker Kurt Hale for working valiantly to keep it from being staid or sanctimonious.
And so, we get jokes about a Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints matchmaking Web site (Utahwedding.com) and LDS telemarketers who do a gung-ho chant ("A sale, a sale, we got another sale") and a high-five whenever a successful pitch is made. Jared lasts only three hours in the telemarketing job and then moves on to a company that rents objects as diverse as toilets ("Make 12 payments and it's yours!"). He loses that job after he is knocked on the head by the rubber tip from the bottom of a walker. Don't ask. The film strains to be funny.
"The R.M." moves ahead to each new bit with a breezy, self-deluded confidence. Jared gets a job at an LDS-themed restaurant, where he serves Book of Mormon burgers and whose drinks include Water of Mormon with a twist of lemon. There's a bit that involves Jared's attempts to get rid of his fiancee's engagement ring and then his drastic measures to find it when he thinks he has lost it.
His mother has her latest baby; one of his sisters gets married (receiving hymn books as gifts from every guest); there's a performance by an Elvis impersonator, Mormon-style; and Jared and Kori get arrested when they crash a party in a stolen car -- sort of.
Hale tries hard but his film is self-consciously wacky without ever being very funny. And while his movie is visually bland -- it looks as though it was shot on location on a sunny day in some upscale suburban neighborhood -- the director will occasionally do something unexpectedly cinematic, such as having his camera relentlessly rotate, Brian De Palma-style, around Jared, Kori and their lawyer. It's a really nifty idea but it just doesn't fit this movie.
And throughout it all, there's a pseudo-rock score (mostly religious rock) that thumps and thumps as if to remind us that "The R.M." is really "with it."
(4 stars) for Latter Day Saints
(2.5 stars) for the rest of us
When Jared Phelps (Kirby Heyborne) returns home from his Latter Day Saint mission (R.M. stands for Returned Missionary in "Latter-Day vernacular"), he's refreshed, inspired and anxious to get back to his old life. After spending two years in Evanston, Wyoming, focusing on his faith and striving to bring others into the church, he's fantasized about this day many times: His parents and 10 siblings will be at the airport waiting to take him home, his girlfriend will accept his hand in marriage, and he'll begin the job he'd been promised before his mission began.
Of course, it's not so simple. Phelps' faith must be tested. His strength must be tried. And along the way, there are obstacles to overcome, leaves to overturn and caffeine-free coffee to wake up and smell before this R.M. can truly embrace the faith that he's spent his lifetime cultivating.
From the producers of The Singles Ward, The R.M. grossed more in its opening weekend in Utah than any other LDS film and is now expanding into Nevada and Arizona markets. The film is part of a new genre called "Mormon Cinema," and it joins a host of other movies released in the last few years, like God's Army, The Other Side of Heaven, Charly and Brigham City. "Mormon Cinema" differs from films that were made by and/or about LDS in that it's shown nationally in commercial theaters.
It's an LDS film aimed at LDS followers, and it demonstrates their ability to laugh at themselves (with food-storage jokes, websites like hotsaints.com and a restaurant called Book of Mormon Burgers). The R.M. is a light, wholesome, family movie with more than a few chuckles, even for the secular. (A taste: The LDS have even jumped on the midget-appreciation bandwagon, casting a midget cop!) Their morally inferior portrayal of non-LDS as sorority sisters and frat boys who lie, cheat, steal and spend most of their time getting wasted is a tad annoying -- but we'll let it slide, considering all the times the LDS have been stereotyped and prejudged.
With a role in "The RM," El Dorado Hills resident Britani Bateman makes her film debut in a romantic comedy about a returned missionary dealing with everything going wrong that should have gone right.
"The RM," short for "The Return Missionary," is about a Mormon man who returns from his dutiful two-year mission serving his church, only to find a fiance, family, and future in incontrovertible chaos.
His family forgets he is arriving, and his visions of a bounteous return home -- complete with brass band and hero's trappings -- are instead replaced by an empty tarmac and silence. The family has also moved, forgetting to tell him; his fiance has bolted and left him for another suitor, and the job promised him upon his return has evaporated. With previously assumed comforts removed from his grasp, the test of faith is at hand.
Jared Phelps, (played by Kirby Heyborne), is about to find out what really matters in a none-too-easily missed parable to the trials of Job. Produced by Halestorm Entertainment, "The RM" is the second Mormon-themed film for Halestorm, following "The Singles Ward," which grossed $1.5 million and is selling well on DVD and videotape.
An independent film shot for $400,000 in six weeks, "The RM" (rated PG for mild thematic material), received instant public approval when it opened in Utah in January. It debuted in Roseville last Friday.
Bateman plays Kelly Powers, the new girl that protagonist Phelps leans on after his fiance, Molly (Erin Robert), breaks off their engagement, leaving him to deal with the fallout. Bateman's experience in playing in local theater and other venues helped her beat out more than 400 vying for the role during the casting call for the film.
"My character Kelly comes in about of the third of the way through," Bateman said. "I'm the new love interest. A lot of the comedy is universal. You don't have to be a Mormon to get the jokes."
With the deluge of action films portraying what many feel are specious values, particularly in terms of family entertainment, Bateman added the role in the Latter-Day Saints-themed film was a welcome breakout opportunity; it's something the entire family can see with equal parts good humor, and the humanizing glimpse into what people struggle with when dealing with unexpected setbacks that test faith and resolve.
"I think that I'm not the only one that agrees that it's about time someone definitely made a movie about the Mormons," Bateman added. "The movie pokes fun at the cultural eccentricities." Among these, she said, are women in the church's relief society sculpting art works out of ice, and other well-meaning, culture-ribbing gags.
Bateman, who graduated from Brigham Young University with bachelor's degree in fine arts, has numerous theater, television, and commercial credits on her resume. She's landed roles in "Touched by an Angel," commercial spots for Disney and Denny's, and starred in "Oliver!" with Christopher Lloyd. It's often hard to find the right project to break into film with, but "The RM" was a rare combination of the right opportunity in the package of an artistic statement that agreed readily with her own values.
"I'm mostly a stay at home mom," Bateman said. "I love being a mom, and my daughter is nearly two years old. I do this on the side, working theater and films on the summer. This film is a lot of fun, and it's not offensive."
As for "The R.M.," Bateman said the film was an immediate hit in Utah because of the relevance it conveys to those who have done their duty only to return home to realize that life may have gone on in their absence, without reserving an easily-acquired place for them.
"They opened up in Utah in 15 theaters, and for that weekend of Friday and Saturday of Jan. 31 and Feb. 1, it was the number one screen average in the nation, which means that the viewers per capita were larger for that theater than for any other movie in America," Bateman said.
The film opened April 11 at Roseville's United Artists Theater. For more information, tickets, or show times, call (916) 772-1233.
The much anticipated new LDS movie, "The RM" ("Returned Missionary" for those few who may not know) hit theatres last Friday, only to disappoint eager moviegoers.
After the success of "The Single's Ward," patrons were eagerly awaiting and expecting a film of equal magnitude. The difference was when they made "The Single's Ward" producers came up with a good story and threw in a bunch of Mormon cliches to make it funny, and were successful at it.
For the making of "The RM" it seems they tried to think of every other cliche they didn't use in the first, and clumsily threw a story around it. After the first five minutes I knew it was going to be a long night. Every scene was filled with LDS humor, whether appropriate to the context or not.
Jared Phelps (Kirby Heyborne) served a successful mission in Wyoming; having been made a district leader, zone leader, and eventually assistant to the president.
Upon returning home his family forgets to pick him up so he takes the bus home only to find out they have moved. His girlfriend, who promised to wait, is now engaged to another guy, his great job, that he was supposed to take up again, no longer exists, and his car has been sold.
Anything and everything that could possibly go wrong does, almost to the point that you wonder if there is any reviving this movie.
There is a bit of humor to be found when Jared returns home to find Humu, a really big Tongan exchange student who is staying with the Phelps family, has taken over his bed and his room.
Heyborne pulls off the best performance possible, given the poorly written script he has to work with.
The rest of the cast is pretty much made up of the same actors who starred in "The Single's Ward," with the addition of a few local players who may be okay on the stage, but when it comes to movies, badly need acting lessons.
Breanne Weaver, a junior from Utah majoring in international communication, said she did not enjoy the movie at all.
"I just kept on thinking... please get over. It went forever. There were a couple of funny parts but the majority of the film is bad," she said.
In my opinion the makers spent more time making sure they had a pleasing soundtrack to delight audiences with (which songs were overemphasized anyway), rather than a pleasing film itself.
I would recommend seeing this movie one time, and only as a rental. Don't waste money seeing it in the theatre. "The RM" is rated PG for slapstick violence and humor. I give "The RM" a generous D+
The latest independent film aimed at Latter-day Saint audiences is in the final days of shooting in Alpine, Utah.
In the same genre as "Singles Ward", now comes "The Best Two Years of My Life."
...Kirby Heyborne/ "The Best Two Years of My Life": "IT'S NOT JUST ABOUT THE LDS NUANCES. IT'S ABOUT RELATIONSHIPS, IT'S ABOUT PEOPLE TRYING TO LIVE TOGETHER AND GET ALONG AND THE STRUGGLES THAT THEY GO THROUGH."
It's the first full length for the producers, but you might recognize members of the cast from other LDS oriented films -- like "Singles Ward," and "The RM."...
[EXCERPT] ...A new movie comes out sometime this month called The RM, directed by Kurt Hale.
The movie takes a humorous look at the life of a 22-year old young man who comes back to the real world after serving a mission.
...The irony is that Dutcher started the LDS movie genre, but others are capitalizing on it. Consider the movies that have been released since "God's Army" -- "Singles Ward," "Other Side of Heaven," "Out of Step," "Charley," "R.M." Three more are on the way.
"It's fun," Dutcher says. "I went to an LDS bookstore recently and the video section looks a lot better than it did a few years ago. There weren't just kids movies. There was some personal satisfaction in that."