Monday, September 25, 2006

'Provo' taps into 'Spinal'-type satire

This is probably the funniest Mormon movie so far, if you like wry
satire. Worth checking out IMO.

- CB
'Provo' taps into 'Spinal'-type satire

Kerry Lengel
The Arizona Republic
Mar. 25, 2005 12:00 AM

It's obvious from the get-go that Sons of Provo is shooting to be the
Mormon This Is Spinal Tap. The film is a mockumentary about a boy band
in the strait-laced Utah Valley, home of Brigham Young University and
the Missionary Training Center, and its tricks come straight out of
Christopher Guest's playbook, from the groaner malapropisms ("I've
been fighting tooth, line and sinker") to the strangely affectionate
manner in which the characters are skewered.

No, it's not particularly original. But it's pretty darned funny.
What's more, there's plenty for non-members of the church to laugh
about among all the in jokes.

Of course, the nature of self-deprecating humor is sometimes to make
outsiders wonder if they're supposed to laugh. That's certainly true
here, because director, co-writer and star Will Swenson is merciless
in exaggerating the foibles of Utah's Mormon community. advertisement

Self-righteousness is a theme throughout, but specifically in
Swenson's character, vain bandleader Will Jensen, whose songs are more
boastful than faithful: "Maybe someday you will see / That you could
be as spiritual as me." Or this in joke, in a song chiding a
too-amorous girlfriend: "You know girl that I love you, but I hope you
comprehend / This body is a temple, and you ain't got no recommend."

Moments with racial overtones are a bit more uncomfortable. Will's
first article of faith is that boy bands began with the Osmonds, not
the Jackson 5, although while searching to replace the group's third
member, he tells the anonymous interviewer, "A Black guy would be
awesome! . . . There's only like 10 Black guys in Utah, but we'll find
'em." Later, when the band unveils its big hip-hop number, a teenage
girl flees the concert in tears, explaining, "Rap . . . doesn't come
from a very holy place."

Thankfully, most of the humor comes with less baggage. The first gig
for Everclean, as the trio names itself, is hilarious. Showing up to
sing at a church social, the guys are informed that they've actually
been "called to serve" as targets for pie-throwing, but they gamely
sing their set as children pelt them with chocolate cream. And boy
bands are a target as much as Mormons, as in the choreography for an
anti-swearing number involving three toilets, complete with cleaning
brushes, and a banner reading "Don't be a potty mouth."

Like the Christopher Guest comedies Waiting for Guffman and Best in
Show, Sons of Provo has an undercurrent of genuine pathos, both in the
rivalry between Will and brother Danny (Danny Tarasevich) and in the
plight of replacement singer Kirby (Kirby Heyborne), a sensitive type
who spends most of his time as a human carpet.

In the film's final five minutes, both of these themes take a
disconcertingly non-satirical turn for the heartwarming - but perhaps
it shouldn't come as a surprise that the Mormon Spinal Tap should end
with some measure of redemption.

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