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If there was ever a movie that accurately described LDS missionary
life, it's this one. One of the reasons that I liked this movie, is
because I could identify with a lot of the experiences, i.e. The
pictures on the toilet, the cockroach family tree, etc. I could also
identify with the times that he didn't want to be on his mission. There
were plenty of those times for me. As an LDS missionary I definitely
could appreciate the attitude of the movie. Some people say that it
offends them, and it doesn't accurately portray LDS missionaries, but
having been on one myself, It does.
LDS missionaries aren't all about being strict and serious 24/7. They are out to share their beliefs with others who want to know, because they believe it as well. I admire Richard Dutcher for taking a stand and being the first to produce a movie that tells the public what missionaries do, and what they go through. He's opened a whole new world to movie-goers.
If anyone had dared suggest that I could sit through 104 minutes of
20-something youths trying to convert people around Los Angeles to the
Mormon church, I would have snickered. But I did sit through it and
The motives driving these young men gradually become apparent, but at no time are the religious aspects of the film overbearing to a non-Mormon (I am a Unitarian and am extremely sensitive to propagandizing or proselytizing) At the end of the movie, the viewer has a understanding of and respect for the beliefs the missionaries are trying to instill in others.
Most appealing is the gentle humor when the real world of Los Angeles comes in conflict with the Mormons' beliefs. One scene is priceless -- the harried father, two children screaming, his wife yelling, who is being assured by the Mormon missionaries that the family is eternal.
This film is well off the beaten cinema path -- if religion is not central to your life but you enjoy well written, well directed drama, God's Army is for you.
I saw "God's Army" with my wife, who is not a member of the Mormon church.
We both loved this movie, but for different reasons... That's the mark of
This was truly an entertaining and informative movie. The movie accurately depicts the experience of an LDS mission. Having been on a mission myself, revelled in the chance to relive those choice moments that are now difficult to remember, and even more difficult to put into words. The acting was good, the writing great, and subject matter priceless! Throughout most of the movie, I forgot I was watching actors.
While I felt this was a movie about Mormons, for Mormons, it was so well done that it could have more broad appeal. My wife who is not Mormon, and knows little about my mission, really enjoyed the characters and their development.
I hope this movie does well, encouraging not just Richard Dutcher, but other filmmakers to make more movies of this kind. Big thanks to everyone who made this movie possible!
The start of, and perhaps, the definitive work thus far with regards to
"Mormon cinema" movement, God's Army is an honest and worthy cinematic
Writer/Director/Actor/Producer Richard Dutcher tells a story he really
beliefs in with
honesty and passion, and although the acting and production value of the
film are not up to
par with his subsequent effort, Brigham City, the integrity of the film
makes it far more
enjoyable and far more appealing.
With reference to the other works within "Mormon cinema" including Singles
Brigham City and Out of Step, God's Army stands tall in comparison, the
being reflected in a boxoffice take more than twice it's closest
Singles Ward and
Out of Step in particular are cheap, easy and unimaginative swill churned
out to an eager,
but small, target audience of Mormons starved of entertainment they can
reallly call their
own. These films pander to the lowest common denominator, whereas God's
attempts to rise above purely Mormon culture and give the world a taste of what it is like to serve a higher and unseen entity - relying purely on faith, as an insecure, young, and unlearned youth.
I had a chance to see a screening in Utah with Richard Dutcher. He said
that he made the film for the LDS community so they could see a bit of
themselves on screen in an entertaining way. After having seen the movie,
agree that is what he accomplished.
For a Mormon to wade through movies where they are portrayed as rustics, idiots or laughing-stocks (My Five Wives, or Orgazmo, anyone?) is tiring. For a Mormon to wade through other movies about people who act immorally (in their view) and are praised in the movie for it (any action film, and many romances) is equally tiring or even offensive. He thought 5 million Mormons in the US wanted to see something different. He was right.
He did not make the film to proselytize to non-mormons, address or explain "issues" about the Mormon church, teach doctrinal points or any other such thing. Anyone saying otherwise probably missed the entire "raison d'etre" of the movie.
The plot was a bit more formulaic than one might like, but less so than any "Action movie blockbuster" of the year (For example, did anyone really *wonder* how the plot of "Gladiator" would develop?).
The acting was solid. That's pretty suprising for essentially an indy. Dutcher said that only a few of the actors were Mormon, but they were convincingly Mormon. The dialog was good and too jargon-filled for any non-mormon to follow 100%. It wasn't the movie's intent to provide explanations for these things. If you need a glossary for the movie, ask the target audience. The music was well done, contributed to the movie without being to obtrusive. The production was very professional, even considering it was done on a shoestring budget and shot in less than 3(?) weeks.
Compared to such high-profile stinkers as the Blair Witch Project, this movie was masterpiece. Compared to a masterpiece, it was good, not stellar but good.
That's my $.02 opinion. Take it for what it is.
P.S. For those who wonder if the movie is a "realistic" portrayal of Mormon missionary life, the answer is "yes, it is inasmuch as a 108 minute movie can do."
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I was dying to hate this movie. There are lots of Mormons where I live, and
since an unpleasant political conflict occurred with me and the Church on
opposite sides, I haven't exactly been smiling on the soldiers in God's Army
who try to convert me. I watched this with my fellow agnostics hoping for a
personal appearance from God, mass conversions of pimps and drug dealers, a
lightning bolt incinerating a gay pride rally or a Starbuck's, anything that
would give us some laughs.
Well...we weren't 100% disappointed. There are conversions, one of them rather unlikely. There's a 'miracle' that I'm sure is technically possible, but doesn't fit this film. And while the movie isn't homophobic, it never addresses the Church's anti-gay stance.
This is noticeable because, surprisingly, it does address other grim issues. In one scene the main character and a black partner sheepishly explain the Church's former bigotry toward blacks and present chauvinism toward women to a skeptical black couple. At one point the unbelieving male racistly disregards the white missionary, which at first struck me as the film's cheap summons for indignant sympathy ("see, blacks are racist too!") at a moment when it should have bitten the bullet and said, "That was wrong of the Church." It doesn't in so many words...but I now wonder if the remark was the film's quiet acknowledgment that the past injustice is offensive enough to make some blacks blindly angry.
The film is like that. It isn't mean to its opponents or loudly preachy. It is quite pro-Mormon, but it goes out of its way to be even-handed. In one of its most admirable scenes, a dying missionary attacks a departing colleague who's lost faith; he subsides when the doubter soberly points out that imminent death might be fuelling a desperation to believe and persuade others...and the ex-LDS is allowed to leave - permanently - with some dignity.
It also skillfully imparts the atmosphere of the young men's spartan lifestyle; sharing cramped, dingy apartments on tiny budgets, dressing in identical outfits, eating identical rations of cold breakfast cereal, and passing out tracts to identical reactions in a scene that will make the rest of us feel guilty (I was never cold enough to trash those leaflets where they could SEE it, but still...) They play jokes on each other to enliven the proceedings, and I can believe the earlier poster who said their real life pranks are even more extreme; if I had to live that way I'd end up streaking down the avenue.
All in all, GOD'S ARMY is pretty worthwhile viewing. It has flaws - some of the plot is weak, it should have addressed the gay issue, etc. - but it stirred subtle respect in me for these proselytizers, replacing an admiration that had been more akin to what you feel for Evel Knievel making a 1,000 foot motorcycle drop. Another poster described a character's religious epiphany as a moment of insanity, and he might be right. One of the film's virtues was reminding me that a somewhat irrational life based on 'moments of insanity' might be more valid than a strictly logical life without them.
Some of the reviewers seem to have expected a movie that preaches mormonism.
That is not what this movie appears to be. It is simply a snapshot of
people's lives, living in a very unusual way in modern times. The characters
seem real, the situations mostly non-contrived, and the writing is good.
This is just as much a movie about Mormons as Witness was a movie about the Amish. You get a glimpse into their lives and a small taste of what they believe and do, but the story is the important part.
Dutcher has stated that his purpose was to make movies for the mormon market, and if other people enjoyed them then that was ok. While it can be a little rough around the edges, it is a fine piece of independent cinema, and a joy to watch.
I really enjoyed it and I am looking forward to Dutcher's next effort, The Prophet, the story of the mormon prophet Joseph Smith. He is an interesting character and lived an interesting life, whether you believe he was a prophet or not.
Rising star Mormon auteur/actor Dutcher's breakthrough film "God's Army" tells of a group of Los Angeles based door-to-door religion peddlers. A shoestring indie with obvious low budgetness and inescapable nonsequiturs, the film manages a sense of earnestness as it shows the cell of young male LDS missionaries struggling with issues of faith, converting, healing, and getting lots of doors slammed in their faces. A somewhat interesting and marginally entertaining watch for anyone who ever wondered what's up with those annoying my-religion-is-better-than-your-religion LDS door knockers. (C+)
I'm an ex-Mormon who, as a film buff, thought that "God's Army" was saleable
merchandise. One thing that is great about movies is that it can take you
to worlds or lifestyles that you wouldn't get to see otherwise (or want to
see) such as "Boogie Nights" look at the porn industry. "God's Army" is
that sort of look into the world of an LDS missionary. Of course the movie
is aimed at Mormons but I did like Richard Dutcher's willingness to have one
of the missionairies start to question the validity of Mormonism and finally
quit his mission. I can guarantee you that every LDS propaganda film made
has always shown missionaries and LDS leaders as stalwarts without a hint of
doubt about their work.
I also liked it that he included the scene where the black couple gives a dressing down to the African-American LDS missionary (I'm sure that there're are some; I've never seen one in person or even met anyone who has met one!). The missionary's response to past, blatant LDS institutional racism falls like a lead balloon to the couple and it seems evident that Dutcher feels that the official LDS line on past race problems is insufficient.
He's also willing to show the missionaries with not only their hair down, but their pants down as well. The practical joke photos of different missionaries sitting on the john were funny and I can only imagine more than a few LDS leaders being a bit offended by that. Again, a bit of Dutcher's unorthodoxy seeping through? Everything I've read about him says he's a TBM (true believing Mormon) but there is something about Dutcher that seems just a little out of step, just a little unorthodox for the usual Mormon. I know that he's trying to create a "Mormon Cinema" and it will probably make him a wealthy man since he has no real competitors for the LDS-drama genre. I would like to see what he could do though with just a straight, non-LDS theme movie and some better actors.
I attended an open house for the recently completed 97th Mormon Temple and
was once again impressed by these 'true believers' - men and women of
steadfast religious conviction (some would say, the product of communal
brainwashing). But judging by "God's Army", an honest and down-to-earth
depiction about Mormon conversion, you have to say the young members are far
from being willing robots, ready to accept their faith. It took a lot of
guts for writer, director, and star Richard Dutcher to make this mainstream
religious feature that, on the whole, is both inspiring and entertaining.
But in his quest for a wide audience, Dutcher has toned down the religious
preaching and built up a story about multi-ethnic characters in the heathen
Los Angeles. Devoid of some proselytizing however, we don't fully
appreciate the Mormon beliefs nor their missionary work. The various
conflicts in the story and their syrupy resolutions also lent themselves
more to the "Touched by an Angel" TV series. That being said, "God's Army"
has several good points. The humor is both refreshing and yet
self-directed: in their pristine mission quarters, the men have a posted
cockroach board with specimen and species identification; Elder Sandoval
boosts himself above a railing to face the famous Hollywood sign as he
delivers his salvation message even as his fellow missionaries are throwing
pieces of food at him; and the house antic is to take pictures of fellow
missionaries sitting on the commode. The acting (mostly first-timers) is
surprisingly good, especially the genuine chemistry between Elder Dalton
(Dutcher) the mentor and Elder Allen (Matthew Brown) the student. In their
shared dialogues, we learn much about a disciplined lifestyle that will lead
to personal growth and salvation. It isn't afraid to air out dirty laundry
in discussing issues of black bigotry and dissent to the Book of Mormons. It
shares with us flawed characters trying to overcome their barriers - Elder
Allen raised by a stepfather who baptized him to the Mormon faith and later
landed in prison for child molesting, Sister Fronk unable to commit to a
Mormon suitor because of her inadequate faith, and Elder Kinegar who could
not overcome his religious disbeliefs. "God's Army" isn't a film for
everyone because in witnessing men and women struggling to understand their
faith and commitment, we are bound to ask ourselves the same questions.
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