The Aisle Seat - Movie Reviews by Mike McGranaghan
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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan



Faith-based films have made a big impact at the box office this year. Right alongside that genre is a similar, smaller one, comprised of specifically Mormon-themed films. You may not have heard of The Saratov Approach or Meet the Mormons, but they both racked up impressive grosses. The former made more than $2 million without ever playing on more than 84 screens, while the latter has earned over $5 million in only 333 theaters. These pictures aren't advertised in mainstream media, yet word of their existence has clearly reached the target audience. They always say that three of any type of movie in a short time constitutes a trend, and we've apparently got one with the release of Missionary.

This is basically a Mormon version of Fatal Attraction - or maybe No Good Deed would be a more appropriate comparison. Dawn Olivieri (House of Lies) plays Katherine, a struggling single mother trying to raise her young son Kesley (Connor Christie) after separating from her husband, Ian (Kip Pardue). One afternoon, two Mormon missionaries show up in her front yard wanting to spend a few minutes talking about Jesus. She blows them off, but one of them, Elder Brock (One Tree Hill's Mitch Ryan) shows Kesley how to catch a football. Katherine's heart is sufficiently warmed, so she agrees to pray with the men. She runs into Brock around town a few more times after that. They flirt, and then abruptly fall into a sexual relationship. (This movie, which carries an R rating, has more sex/nudity than you'll find in just about any other picture with Christian themes.) When Katherine ends up reuniting with Ian, Brock goes off the deep end and becomes an obsessed stalker.

Missionary is definitely intended to be a celebration of Mormon beliefs, but it accomplishes this in some rather unusual ways. Scenes abruptly stop so that characters can espouse Mormon philosophy and ideals. For example, someone will say something along the lines of, “What do you know about the Mormon temple?” Then there will be some sort of lengthy explanation. If you're looking for a movie to put this information on the screen, that's all well and good, but dramatically it grinds plot momentum to a swift halt. This is, after all, a story about a guy pushed over the edge of sanity and subsequently threatening a woman and a child. Most people aren't going to be excited to endure these repeated lessons.

A far bigger problem is that the film ignores something essential to both the plot and to the Mormon faith. The need to maintain chastity is a key belief in the religion, so Elder Brock having a torrid sexual affair with a woman to whom he is not married would be a significant deviation. Missionary offers zero scenes in which Brock struggles with his desires or worries about going against his values. Nor, for that matter, does it indicate that he had any mental instability prior to meeting Katherine. This all has the effect of turning him into a psychopath for no apparent reason. He could have had really human, if admittedly skewed, justifications for his unstable actions after being rejected. Instead, he reiterates a desire to “seal” himself to Katherine and Kesley so he can “become a celestial husband and father” (more key Mormon ideals), then turns into a routine movie psycho-killer.

Missionary isn't helped by its by-the-numbers script, frequently stiff performances, leaden direction from Anthony DiBlasi, or abrupt ending that fails to drive home any sort of point about faith and the perils of venturing away from it. The movie may well appeal to Mormon audiences because the plot directly incorporates the tenets of their religion. They may also pick up on thematic cues not apparent to non-Mormons. All other audiences will see it as a generic, unconvincing thriller.

( out of four)

Missionary is rated R for sequences of violence, sexuality, and language. The running time is 1 hour and 32 minutes.

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