I groaned at the appearance of the first Mormon joke of the movie. A tall man walks up to give a talk and the new counselor has trouble with the podium, making it go up and down ten times before deciding to come up to it and, in an attempt to raise it, rips the top of the podium right off and knocks down the speaker. Fortunately, the scene almost seems to be a joke on the audience ““ horrifying us with the prospect of another Home Teachers before settling into a somewhat more mature comedy. Unfortunately, the comedy that we do get isn’t that much funnier.
Mobsters and Mormons is the story of Carmine (Mark DeCarlo) a New York mobster who, after ratting out his co-mobsters, is placed in a witness protection program and relocated with his family to Utah. Most of the humor is then derived from Carmine’s tough-guy reaction to a rather stereotypically portrayed Utah Valley. There are a few laughs, but DeCarlo’s antics quickly wear thin. He’s got a lot of energy, but if you don’t find his rather childish behavior funny, it’s almost difficult to sit through.
As Carmine’s family ““ now renamed the Cheeseman’s ““ move into the neighborhood, they are eventually shunned by everyone but one family. Sadly, the neighbors who hate the Cheeseman’s are all cartoons. Not only do we fail to really understand their hesitance, but they actually act like cartoons. Maybe it’s because Carmine himself is always acting like a cartoon. In any case, I think it’s precisely this kind of camp that puts off so much of its Mormon audience.
In spite of the flatness of its humor, Mobsters and Mormons is still possibly the best LDS comedy to date ““ strangely enough ““ because of its serious side. The narrative of the film is actually rather steady and its climax surprisingly compelling.
Though he’s terribly one-dimensional, I like Michael (Scott Christopher), the father of the family who embraces the Cheesemans. He reaches out to the new family in every way that a good-hearted bishopric member might. Our failure to see the motivation in his actions actually works out rather well ““ he’s just a genuine Christian and his motives are pure.
Though initially resistant, Carmine is ultimately touched by the kindness, the devotion to family and the religiosity of his neighbors and slowly embraces a tenderness, concern for family and a spirituality of his own. The story eventually manages to be a stirring reminder to both Mormons and Non-Mormons of the senselessness in judging each other. I don’t think there’s been an LDS film yet that’s been better at directly addressing both insider and outsider audiences in a meaningful way. Now if it could just succeed in its humor attempts, we might be getting somewhere.