Review: The RM (B+)

The RMThe RM is the sophomore effort from HaleStorm Entertainment, featuring many of the same people from their earlier movie The Singles Ward.

The Singles Ward was an entertaining if somewhat inconsistent comedy about some of the funnier aspects of LDS culture and The RM covers much of the same ground (albeit from slightly different angles) in a much more focused and consistent effort.

The story and pacing are more focused this time around, and the ‘cameos’ by famous LDS or Utah personalities are kept to a minimum.  (Although there is still a puzzling scene with — now former — BYU football coach Gary Crowton which (a) is not funny (b) has nothing to do with football and (c) has nothing to do with the plot either. It seems to exist just so people can point at the screen and say “Hey, it’s Gary Crowton!” and would probably have been better off left on the cutting room floor)  For the most part, though, the acting, dialogue, and plot are leagues ahead of The Singles Ward (which, mind you, wasn’t all that bad to begin with…)

Ah, but is the movie funny?   As I noted in my Singles Ward analysis, that is in essence the only characteristic of a comedy that really matters.   And yes, (oh my, yes) The RM is funny.  The humor in The RM, as with other aspects of the movie, benefits from the tighter scope and focus of the filmmakers.    Instead of throwing dozens of gags at the audience hoping a fraction of them hit, the filmmakers have chosen the targets of humor more carefully within the bounds of the story.  The volume of jokes may be lower than in The Singles Ward, but the success ratio is higher and as a result The RM will come across as the far funnier movie.

Individual scenes such as the Elders Quorum / Relief Society comparison and Jared’s disastrous attempt at home teaching at the end are some of the funniest scenes you’ll see in any LDS movie.   Kudos also go to the scene which is not only quite funny, but also an effective advertisement as well. (This could have easily been mishandled and turned out lame)  This is one joke which I think deserved a follow-up later in the movie.

The quality of the humor makes up for the fact that the serious aspects of The RM (specifically Jared’s trial at the end) are the weakest part of the film — one area where you’d have to give The Singles Ward the edge. As noted above, though, humor is only thing that matters in a comedy, and The RM‘s lack of serious dramatic content shouldn’t be held against it much.

As with The Singles Ward, a lot of the humor will probably go over your head if you’re not LDS, but for everyone else The RM is a clear recommendation.  The RM isn’t anything ‘deep’ and meaningful, but represents a lot of good laughs and good entertainment.

Final Grade: B+

Analysis and Other Comments:

(1) Home and visiting teaching is one of the vital elements in completing the Church’s mission of “perfecting the saints”, and one of the Church’s most constant problem in getting people to do it.  Everyone’s heard the home teaching jokes–99.9% of which have something to do with the ‘last day of the month’, and Jared’s experience attempting to visit his home teachees in the late evening on the last day of the month provides a simple lesson through humorous exaggeration.

It’s hard sometimes to remember that home and visiting teaching is supposed to be for the benefit and convenience of the people being home taught, not the teachers — as Jared’s disastrous attempts late in the movie demonstrate. Why is it so hard sometimes to be a good home teacher?   Richard Marshall’s 1990 book Home Teaching With Purpose And Power has a good analysis:

[W]hen a Mormon goes on a mission, it calls for a general celebration in the neighborhood: slaps on the back, a crowded farewell, laudatory speeches, his favorite hymns, and so on. He gets a grand sendoff at the airport with flags flying, bands playing, plenty of tears and hoopla. And even during his mission, he is continually reinforced with letters and packages of encouragement from home. It’s hard for him to fail because of so many people in the system to prop him up, keeping him productive, keeping him going. He’s almost guaranteed a repeat celebration at the airport when he completes his two years, and another crowded sacrament meeting for his homecoming. Plus…he now wears a big medal on his chest, invisible though it may be, that says ‘Honorably Returned Missionary’.

But just measure the change of pace when that same excited, returned missionary receives the simple assignment of becoming a plain, everyday home teacher. Missionaries are special; home teachers are everywhere. There may be a feeling that no fire-in-the-belly spirituality is needed for home teaching. For without proper understanding and vision, home teaching could seem humdrum to most priesthood holders. And there are no bands or shouts to send a home teacher off on his designated rounds every thirty days. His calling is now perfunctory, mechanical, ordinary, drab. He’s expected to perform month after month, endlessly. There’s no conclusion in sight, no let up, no special commendation, no celebration for a job well done….He’s still going to be a home teacher when he dies, sometimes just stumbling along for years. Just a hit-or-miss, catch-as-catch-can home teacher…There’s not a lot of glory in it. Glory is the stuff of missions.

It’s not just ‘lack of glory’ that works against home teaching — it’s the lack of surety that you’re actually doing something worthwhile.  Some families are genuinely doing well and don’t need any help.  And some families need help, but pretend they are doing well (out of pride, or lack of trust in the home teachers to help).  And it’s hard to tell which families are which, so month after month of visiting, but not doing anything more than interrupt the family’s normal schedule, it’s easy to get burnt out.  But all it takes is one good home teaching experience, where genuine love and service are needed (and given) to understand how the program can work.