Reviewed by: Ken James
Better than Average
LDS Romantic Comedy
1 hr. 43 min.
Starring: Heather Beers, Jeremy Elliott, Adam Johnson, Bernie M. Diamond, Clara Susan Morey II | Directed by: Adam Thomas Anderegg | Written by: Janine Whetten-Gilbert, based on the novel by Jack Weyland | Produced by: Micah Merrill, Lance C. Williams | Distributor: Kaleidoscope Pictures
“Charly” is, well, almost charming… It’s the story of a New York girl (Heather Beers) who heads out to Utah on a visit. Salt Lake City, to be exact. Of course, this is the worldwide headquarters for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, and the man she immediately meets couldn’t be more opposite. He’s a straight-laced Mormon (played by Jeremy Elliott), committed to his faith and the values that the LDS teachings uphold. Charly is a complete skeptic and downright cynical about the Mormon church. As an effective piece of Mormon propoganda however, we naturally know that she will come around to adopting the Mormon faith.
Charly reads the Book of Mormon (much to the surprise of Sam Roberts) and finds herself believing what she reads. Her entire demeanor changes—she becomes more hopeful in her outlook on life, more serious about life in general (and especially Sam), and more chaste in her appearance. Her live-in fiance back in New York, along with her non-LDS parents in Salt Lake, become increasingly concerned with their newly church-going daughter, conspiring to bring her “back to her senses.” Will they succeed, or will Charly end up marrying into the LDS family?
Charly’s strongest themes include chastity and purity (abstinence before marriage—that’s good), the “families are forever” theme (Mormons believe that those you marry on earth in a Mormon temple will also be your spouse in heaven), and the promotion of a clean lifestyle (Charly used to drink alcohol and caffeinated drinks, but stops that). It is a quality production technically with good humor and wit, while totally switching topic the second half of the film when Charly is diagnosed with cancer. Deeper topics of loss, grief, anger with God, prayer for healing, and more saturate the conclusion.
This film is fun, albeit only for those who are already in the LDS faith. The Mormon church is following suit after Christians in using film to help to promote their faith. In the past 2 years “The Other Side of Heaven,” “Brigham City,” and “God’s Army” have all made it into the mainstream. As I sat and watched this, I wondered to myself if this is what it must feel like for non-Christians when they watch an overtly Christian film.
Year of Release—2002