'The Work and the Story'
* * * [3 stars out of 5]
DIRECTOR: Nathan Smith Jones
CAST: Nathan Smith Jones, Jen Hoskins, Richard Dutcher.
RATING: Unrated, but inoffensive.
Finally, a Mormon comedy that's funny.
I don't know what has taken so long. Many Mormons tell wonderful jokes on themselves, just as Jews tell jokes on their religion or Garrison Keillor jokes about Lutherans. It is, after all, not the religion itself that is the butt of the comedy, but the folkways and behavior of the believers.
In The Work and the Story, Nathan Smith Jones pokes fun at the rise of "Holy-wood," the new Mormon film industry. If you are not a member of the LDS church, the movement may have gone unnoticed, but a host of young directors, largely from Salt Lake City, have begun making films, not so much with a Mormon message as a Mormon flavor.
In this new mockumentary, the father of the Mormon film movement, Richard Dutcher, is reported missing and presumed dead, and three young directors attempt to fill the gap and become "the new Mormon Spielberg."
One important difference: The very real Dutcher has talent; the three fictional filmmakers are all grossly incompetent, although they don't know it.
Jones himself plays the most obnoxious of the three, Peter Beuhmann, who has gone totally Hollywood, talking in agent jargon and using and abusing everyone around him. But underneath, he's still so small-time that he has to beg his father to loan him $1,000 to help make his film. He has gone, he says, "hundreds of dollars over budget." When his father refuses, Peter whines, "But it's Mormony!"
The second filmmaker, Kevin, has never made a movie longer than eight seconds. He wants to make a feature, but he doesn't like the violence and sex of Hollywood films. He wants to make "film blanc."
The third is Judy, who has just finished an epic called Bad Girls of the Bible.
When it turns out her South American sound man doesn't speak English, she says, "He doesn't need to speak English to do sound. It's a universal language, like math or love."
One shouldn't make too much of this film, perhaps. The acting is still wooden, the technical side is almost amateur and the editing is just a beat too long for nearly every scene.
But you can't argue with a laugh: The movie is funny.