I saw Meet the Mormons (MTM) last week and here is my report:
I went into MTM concerned about this project for a variety of reasons and hence had very low expectations. I arrived at the theater 6 minutes before the movie started in a very populated LDS area where I assumed there would be the best turn out. I went on Saturday night of opening weekend. There were no lines and I was surprised the theater was only half full, despite all the advertising and at least two apostolic requests to all LDS members to watch the movie opening weekend. Perhaps other locations saw better attendance. If my experience is anything like other areas, then this movie is not likely to be a blockbuster nor is it likely to make much money.
I admit I was touched by those whose lives were being highlighted. As I expected, they all seemed like good people. I do feel like they are being showcased for their “uniqueness,” however, and still think the church’s very choice of this film’s title is a little misleading. It would have been better to call it, “Meet some extremely unique Mormons” or “Meet 6 Mormons not necessarily from Utah.”
I read an article in the Salt Lake Tribune where the author comments: “The film is more of a showcase of Mormon wholesomeness than a candid look at the real us. While it’s nice to have my people portrayed as so blissfully positive, I came away wondering if I had been raised in a completely different church” (See article here).
In Elder Bednar’s promotion of MTM and while urging members to flood the earth with social media messages, he warns members:
“Be authentic and consistent. A person or product that is not authentic is false, fake and fraudulent. Our messages should be truthful, honest and accurate.”
I could see how some may not view this film as totally accurate.
I’ll be candid, I was very underwhelmed by the movie itself. It was dry, slow, non-climactic, and really quite bland. I was surprised that the film was only an hour and eighteen minutes long. Its length was much shorter than I expected. Most movies are at least an hour and a half or more in length. I’m not saying longer would have been better, I was just surprised at how short it was.
The coverage of these 6 people was very shallow, with very minimal real details of their lives or their faith. “Mormons believe in God and Jesus and families and the Bible and an interesting book called the Book of Mormon” was the general idea. As I sat there amongst a mostly LDS audience, I wondered if any of them would have attended a movie that was called “Meet the Jehovah Witnesses, or Catholics or Amish.” I kind of doubt it, unless the reviews of course were off the charts.
One movie review on Rotten Tomatoes said, “Would you go out of your way to see an infomercial that was more than an hour long? Would you even pay for the privilege? That’s what ‘Meet the Mormons’ would have filmgoers do” (See here, and here). Many other reviews from news outlets were equally disappointed in MTM (see Nearing Kolob for other questions and links).
In all candor, this movie seems out of place being in the theaters. The quality and story line were simply not there. I think the Legacy theater would have been a better fit, although I think The Testaments and Joseph Smith movies are much more powerful. In fact, I wonder if the Testaments would have not been a better hit in the theaters, despite its obvious attempt to share our message.
After seeing MTM, and after contemplating the project more generally, I think focusing on our core doctrinal message would be a better use of our time and resources. Focusing on highlighting people in a time of such great urgency, may be a luxury we cannot afford.
“Take away the Book of Mormon and the revelations, and where is our religion? We have none; for without Zion, and a place of deliverance, we must fall; because the time is near when the sun will be darkened, and the moon turned to blood, and the stars fall from the heaven, and the earth reel to and fro’. Then, if this is the case, and if we are not sanctified and gathered to the places God has appointed, with all our former professions and our great love for the Bible, we must fall; we cannot stand; we cannot be saved; for God will gather out his Saints from the Gentiles, and then comes desolation and destruction, and none can escape except the pure in heart who are gathered.”
UPDATE on 12-15-2014
Meet the Mormons to date has grossed $5.8M. Reviews from movie critics is averaging about a 5-10% like rating vs. a 90-95% dislike rating. Interestingly, according to Rotten Tomatoes, 91% of all viewers have liked the movie. This translates as many if not most or all movie goers likely to be LDS.