I'm going to try to be un-brutally honest, but straight up.
This movie didn't stink as bad as I had heard. And for a fat girl you don't sweat much.
I must mention up front that my taste in film is probably more offbeat than most people. I'm the guy who thinks Lady in the Water is M. Knight Shyamalan's best work.
Hear me out. I have never done anything half as ambitious as Chris Heimerdinger. But, I have seen a lot of movies and I stayed at a Holiday Inn last night. Okay, I made that last part up.
If I had to place Passage to Zarahemla in the LDS film genre, I would put it in the same range as The Best Two Years, which I actually really liked, despite its weaknesses.
Passage to Zarahemla is a little bit better than Charly, not quite as good as Sons of Provo (another movie that wasn't well received, but I liked a lot) and somewhat more behind Saints and Soldiers, Brigham City, and God's Army in that order.
It leaves any Singles Ward, the RM, the Home Teacher, Baptists at our Barbecue, and Church Ball in the dust. Disclaimer: I haven't seen Church Ball. But, having viewed the trailer numerous times, there is no way Gary Coleman saved this movie.
My biggest problem with most of the LDS movie genre is I can't tell who they think their audience is. If it is non LDS, well welcome to the big leagues and prepare to get beaten up. Best, to leave the sledgehammer between the eyes preachiness behind and go for subtlety. If the audience is the active LDS world then maybe there is less need to tell us things we already know and once again go for subtlety. The audience likes to think it is intelligent and figure some things out on its own and notice angles others might not have caught.
Although it did dip into “Road Show Humor” at times, this movie did not rely solely on it, which move I praise. Keep moving in this direction. It's time to raise the level of entertainment produced by Church members. No need to continually go for the lowest common denominator. Continually pointing out our quirks and cliches has run its course.
Things I liked:
The analogy between modern gangs and Gadianton robbers. I thought the way the gang element was brought into the story was a little clunky, though. Also, for the most part the gang members were more frightening than the Gadiantons, might have been better to make them more on par with each other.
Best line in the movie: “You all with the Manti Pageant?” when the Gadiantons walk into the eatery. This might seem “Road Show Humor” but it worked for me. Give Mr. Heimerdinger credit for that.
I also loved Kiddoni's observation: “How can you live after the Messiah and not believe in Him?” This was preaching that would work on both members and non.
Costumes were good, seemed authentic, did not detract. A
Casting was good. That little girl (Sariah?) was adorable with her one line. A
Cinematography was good. (the rack mounted Elk-cam was cheesy.) A-
Acting for the most part was good. Grandpa Lee might have been the best of the bunch. B+
Soundtrack - I was half and half on this. It may have been Sam Cardon's original music that I enjoyed and other artists that I didn't always enjoy. - B
I had heard some people complain that the special effects weren't up to snuff. I was fine with them.
This movie had high production values. Box Office Mojo doesn't disclose its production budget, only its gross revenue. I am certain it hasn't lost as much as The Work and the Glory. But, it's just as good a looking film.
What I didn't like or would try to improve:
Mr. Heimerdinger may have been too involved with the project. He should have gotten someone who has sold a screenplay to help him with that and leave the rest to others. Let someone else direct. If you are going to be in the same shot as your daughter, stand on a box so as to be a little taller.
Grandpa Lee's hair color wasn't right.
Only LDS see the rest of the world as all infested with gangs and such. I don't think a young boy Brock's age would be hanging with the Eminem wannabees twice his age.
Screenplay – too many obvious and cliched plot devices and turns. Of course they get a flat tire while driving to Utah and of course their car barely limps into town. I like to be surprised.
The aunt doesn't have to have 18 kids does she?
Didn't go anywhere with the meme of the uncle's bad short term memory. Use it or get rid of it.
The wrap up is a little abrupt and anticlimactic.
The biggest hurdle that LDS cinema has to overcome, and that other genres don't have is trying to share something with others that is uniquely precious to us and part of our spiritual identity.
LDS cinema has yet to attain 90% of its potential. But, Passage to Zarahemla is a step in the right direction.