Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Church Ball and the Death of Mormon Cinema

If a producer were deliberately trying to make a movie that showed the worst aspects of LDS culture yet stay as far away from any doctrinal issues as possible I don't think they could do much better than Church Ball, the latest release from Halestorm pictures. It appears that Halestorm has gone to extremes to avoid doctrinal issues and focus solely on the social club distinctions instead.
Here is a quick plot summary: The church leadership have decided to cancel church basketball programs because they are counter productive to the gospel. An overzealous Bishop "calls" one of the players, played by Andrew Wilson, to bring the final church basketball trophy home to his congregation. (Note the use of the word congregation rather than Ward. This is just one of many instances in the movie of avoiding LDS specific terms.) Realizing that his team is a bunch of misfits, Wilson goes on a search for a ringer. They find their ringer by reactivating a member who actually fell away because of an incident that happened during a church basketball game. Well to make a long story short they win the game against their rival congregation and they get the trophy. Then at the very end when church basketball has been banned they show the same lousy behavior during a church baseball game.
What disturbed me most about this movie was that nobody seemed to learn anything. Even the leaders in the movie recognized that the players’ behavior was an embarrassment to the church. At one point the players were shown asking what the minimum standards were to be able to play. "Now they don't have to be members. They just have to come to church once in order to play." They actually stated that attending services was not their goal! After the team scored a rare victory one unlikely player, played by Gary Coleman, says, "Alright everybody! Beer is on me!" They make light of this comment but to me it’s just another example that winning was their only goal. They hadn't even given the most cursory briefing of LDS doctrines to these players.
Another scene shows a member player who has a foul mouth putting $20 into his curse jar before he gets dressed for the big game. He was actually planning ahead for his bad behavior rather than taking steps to correct it.
This story line had some potential but they completely blew it. Had they realized that other things were more important than basketball and done something like forfeiting the final game for one of those more important things I could have forgiven every other defect in the movie. However, this move never had any such learning moment or point of awareness.
The deliberate dilution of LDS lingo in the movie was completely unnecessary. The prayer that they showed was arrogant and did not close in the name of Jesus Christ. Come to think of it I don't think the words Jesus Christ showed up even once. I don’t even think they ever used the word Mormon. I’m not going to watch it again just to find out. Perhaps this was to imply that similar problems may happen in other denominations’ sports programs too. Or perhaps this was deliberate to avoid associating this flick with anything actually divine.
Besides a few cute one liners this movie had nothing redeeming about it.
As I've stated before on other posts, I grow more disappointed with this entire genre' with every release. This movie just continues that trend. When, if ever, will Mormon cinema even approach its stated goal of making a movie that shows LDS values and culture in the same way that "Fiddler on the Roof" did for Judaism? Richard Ducher, the producer of God's Army and Brigham City asked in an interview "What kind of a movie would [Fiddler on the Roof] be without the Jewishness? He argued forcefully that just like Fiddler on the Roof, we cannot make profound Mormon movies without including Mormon culture.
Personally, I’m patiently waiting for that movie, but from what I've seen so far I seriously doubt it'll come from Halestorm.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous7:27 PM

    Kolob Kool-Aid

    The Mormons have a problem. They want to become the church with the largest number of members. Since they believe that all humans had a preexistence in spirit form on a far-off (and far-out) planet they call Kolob, they are obsessed with finding the "fastest and most pleasurable ways" of transforming those Kolob "spirit" beings into human babies. Yes, the "fastest and most pleasurable ways" of creating more babies - that is, in addition to the tremendous help obtained from raunchy films, raunchy music, and raunchy dancing. Any advice you can give may help the LDS church to greatly increase its membership!