Many years ago I read the first in the Tennis Shoes Among the Nephites series. I enjoyed it a lot. It was pretty darn Mormon and kind of geared toward teenagers. But I liked it.
That being said, one of the first things I learned about my husband was that he had done the cover to the latest in the series. I was intrigued.
But when I saw the billboard on I-15 advertising the coming of the movie, I was skeptical. It didn't look all that professional and I can get kind of picky about things like that.
What did I think of Passage to Zarahemla?
The parts I didn't like: The main guy isn't all that good-looking (yes, very shallow of me, but it actually distracted - the main hunk has to actually be a hunk!). The actors had varying degrees of commitment to their roles and some were a lot more believable than others (the aunt was fantastic, the grandpa was groan-worthy). It was slightly preachy in parts.
The parts I did like: The actors were all appropriate in their roles. The danger felt like real danger. The situations didn't feel contrived. The mixing of the different types of people (the Gadiantons, the Utahns, the gang-bangers) actually worked. I liked that there was more than one thing going on because it made everything feel more real (life is usually more complicated than one danger or one difficult situation).
The dialogue wasn't perfect, but it didn't distract, so that doesn't go in either category. Overall, I liked the movie. It's not my new favorite movie, but I will comfortably recommend it to, um, people who are Mormon and aren't super anti all Mormon movies.
The reason I would recommend it to Mormons is that you either understand everything they talk about with Nephite history or it might feel a bit awkward and preachy ("Have faith!" or "Learn of me! Learn of my people!"). Brent and I watched the movie with two of my nieces (they had seen it before, and they actually requested that we watch it this morning). All four of us agreed that the movie was lots of fun.
Now, maybe it was my reduced expectations, but I really enjoyed the movie. It was a fun ride. I will warn anyone that wants to show it to little kids that the danger is actual danger. People get hurt and there is implied killing and there is crime. But any family without some dysfunction and trouble (at least when teens are involved) isn't a real family. Things aren't magically solved just because the story is over, and I liked that a lot.
One note on the DVD. There are two versions of the movie - "theatrical release" and "less intense version". We watched the theatrical version, so I'm not sure how the other one compares. But it could be that the less intense version would then be appriopriate for all ages. I just thought it was cool that it would be available. You know?
So there you have it. If you're going by Hollywood standards, I might only give it 3 out of 5 stars. It is too Mormon to be really appealing to outsiders and it's imperfect, but it is a fun movie. I think Chris Heimerdinger did a good job.