• Laz

God's Army (2000) - Letterbox'd Repost

A lot changed in the ten years after God's Army came about. In global events, the twin towers fell[1], while over at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the missionary bar for missionary standards was formally raised. The bottom of the form 'Mormon Cinema' that Dutcher largely invented with this release fell out, and similarly, the housing market burst and the great recession hit America.

It was in this very changed world, in 2010, that I went on my own mission. Not only had both society and the church gone through enough growing pains to potentially completely shift the paradigm of what a mission could be, but I was sent to the other side of the world from Los Angeles.

I spoke French, and we weren't allowed to hug female investigators, thank you very much.

Despite all of this contrast, and despite having been home from a mission for nearly a decade, God's Army still felt like returning to a certain warm-but-weird home. I'm convinced that even if this movie does nothing for your tastes, it will have succeeded in being the first of its kind to capture so many of my lived experiences[2].

Are the experiences a little melodramatic at times? Sure. But in a way, the missionary lifestyle *feels* this dramatic at times. Again, you may not know what I mean if you were never a missionary[3].

Does the movie feel like it checks off a tidy list of stock mission archetypes? Sure. But credit must be given to Dutcher for being a microcosmic pioneer[4]. It must not be forgotten that people took (and maybe still take, I don't know) issue with the simple idea of a dramatized portrayals of priesthood blessings/ordinances onscreen[5].

So, I don't know what else I feel like getting into. I could talk about faith crises, Dutcher and his "R Rated Truths," or the lessons 'Mollywood' took/missed from this film.

I didn't love all of it, by any means. The performances weren't all great. I hate the line on which the film concludes. But I think there's something here. I honestly don't know how I got to this so late[6], but I'm eager to track the sequel, as well as the rest of Dutcher's filmography.

Final thoughts:

• Desean Terry is the standout performance in the film.

• Big props to an accurate onscreen depiction of the infamous 'celestial smile.'

[1] I feel like a lot could be written about the many ways this movie is distinctly pre-9/11, while also somehow capturing a post-9/11 vibe, but I will refrain.

[2] I'm sorry, I'm not trying to be dismissive, whoever you are, but that's just how it resonated for me.

[3] I promise, it's okay if this just sounds like an excuse to you.

[4] tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/SeinfeldIsUnfunny

[5] At least outside of church-endorsed projects.

[6] For being both a film major and a lover of mormonana, I am a disgrace.

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