Lots of nice, little spice
“Meet the Mormons” is a documentary sanctioned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that offers audiences a gentle, well-crafted look inside the lives of six church members of temporal and cultural distinction and the religious beliefs that are a driving force in their lives. That’s it. There is nothing, really, beyond those basic objectives.
Many are likely to criticize the film because it avoids controversial issues. But isn’t it silly to demand the film be more than what the filmmakers intended it to be? Did anyone expect the church to hire Michael Moore to direct its film?
In fact the filmmaker is Blair Treu, who presents the stories of a diverse group of members including a coach for the Naval Academy football team, an African-American bishop near Atlanta, a Nepal convert who is helping to build schools in his country, a female kickboxer in Costa Rica, and Air Force pilot Gail Halvorsen, known as the original “candy bomber” for distributing candy to children during the Berlin Airlift. One of the most poignant vignettes shows a young mother in an interracial family who recovered from a tough adolescence and is helping her son prepare to serve a two-year mission.
This isn’t exactly edgy material, and the film feels more like a 78-minute tender-hearted infomercial than a groundbreaking examination of the LDS church. Some of the best moments in the film come right off the bat where folks on the street in Times Square reveal funny misconceptions about the Church, backed by humorous clips from television shows and movies.
It’s a testament to the fact that the film will also be an inspiration to the already converted that many LDS will pay to see the film. The Church hopes that members will be proud enough of it to invite non-member friends to see it too. That may prove a challenging task because the film is neither a hard-hitting expose nor particularly revealing. How many Christians would rush to the theaters to see a film called “Meet the Muslims” if we knew the content was only positive?
Is the film a propaganda piece? That term is likely more a reflection of your opinion on the Church’s stormy history or its divisive political leanings than it is a fair description of the actual content, which is practically doctrine-free. Since when did advertising charity, kindness, and the value of strong family ties become so polarizing?
The film clearly is intended for both the already converted and those pre-disposed to be interested in the Church and its teachings. It’s a movie you would see at a Visitor’s Center or some other church public forum – which is where, by design, the film is destined to end up. “Meet the Mormons” affirms what its followers already know, corroborates what the curious would like to believe, and frustrates those who want something different.
If you’re not in the mood, don’t spend your money on a feel-good film that wants you to do just that, feel good.
Besides, in all likelihood, any theater where “Meet the Mormons” is being shown is the best place to do what the film’s title suggests—just hang around outside, you’ll find plenty of them.