By Common Consent Guest Review – Click Here

Jenny Garrard is a Utah Mormon, born and raised, but she’s not a fan of Jello and doesn’t sell anything on Etsy. She suffers from RBF, which you probably shouldn’t Google, but it’s nothing a dirty soda can’t fix. Jenny is married to an Idaho farm boy, and together they have 3 sons.

This is a review of the new Saturday’s Warrior film, directed by Michael Buster, produced by Lex de Azevedo, which opens April 1, 2016.

When I was about 13, I had my first and most memorable encounter with the Mormon cultural juggernaut Saturday’s Warrior in the form of a stage performance by a group of local high school students. As the saga of the Flinders family unfolded before me, I laid eyes on the actor playing the part of rebellious Jimmy and finally understood what my Beehive adviser meant when she said Satan could make bad things seem very, very good. As it turns out, Jimmy and I had never made premortal promises to one another (Upon retrospection, it’s more likely that Jimmy was dating his pretend sister, Pam.). Unlike Jimmy Flinders though, certain Saturday’s Warrior song lyrics were destined to stay with me throughout eternity. With that in mind, I eagerly accepted the chance to view the new Saturday’s Warrior motion picture. Was ours a love that would last?

Like in the play, the first scenes of the movie take place in the premortal realm (Or an Ogdentrain station . . .), with the requisite gauzy curtains, white outfits, and fog machines. Here, the Flinders children and other spirits anxiously wait for their turn to come to earth, spending their time perfecting their dancing and singing skills. Julie Flinders (Monica Moore Smith) and her spirit-stud, Tod (Mason D. Davis), also take their last few moments together to commit to finding one another on Earth. The remake, however, adds Alex Boyé as a heavenly receptionist of sorts. His main duties seem to be singing intermittently and making sure spirits leave on time for their mortal probation, the portal to which is a bright light at the end of a brick hallway.

The Flinders children (Aside from little Emily [Abigail Baugh], whose turn has not yet come.) make it safely to their earthly home in the 1970s, where Julie tries to navigate decisions about dating and marriage, Pam (Anna Daines) experiences the limitations of a broken mortal body, and Jimmy (Kenny Holland) starts to struggle under the influence of friends who question the wisdom of having a family as large as the Flinders’. Their problems seem almost precious compared to today’s (I can almost imagine a circa 2016 Mr. Flinders trying to convince Jimmy that it’s not the feelings that are a sin; it’s just acting on them that’s the problem.). But just like in the original play, the simplicity of the problems is what draws attention to the family relationships affected by them.

Alison Akin Clark and Brian Clark, a real-life couple playing Flinders family parents Terri and Adam, alternate between comedic performances that come across as awkward caricatures of typical Mormon parents, and more sincere scenes in which they struggle, wondering what more they could have done to help Jimmy stay on the straight and narrow path (Didn’t we love him?! DIDN’T WE RAISE HIM WELL???). These characters are slightly more nuanced than in the original; the parents have unfulfilled ambitions of their own, and movie-version Terri is more than simply a good-natured baby factory.

Until now, Lex de Azevedo and Doug Stewart’s musical has only existed in the form of a play. Even the late ‘80s video version of Saturday’s Warrior was just a filmed stage performance. Making it into a motion picture required the assistance of a Kickstarter account (Like an old-fashioned Mormon potluck, but instead of salads, money! Everyone bring some!), still amounting to a relatively bare-bones budget. But de Azevedo and director Michael Buster didn’t need a huge budget to craft this film to appeal to the Mormon masses. They clearly know just who their audience is, and indicate it by serving up little winks and nods to Mormon culture: a Donny Osmond mention, an Uchtdorf reference (No, seriously.), and cameos by Steven Sharp Nelson and Jon Schmidt from The Piano Guys.

Which leads me to a word about the music: The songs and lyrics are part of what have made Saturday’s Warrior iconic. But for an updated version, it was surprising that some of the songs had not changed much at all. You get what you’ve signed up for: Elders Kestler and Green singing an entertaining enough “Humble Way,” Julie and Tod reflecting on the size and scope of the circle of their love, Jimmy and friends singing about abortion, a couple okay-ish new songs, and having “Line upon line upon, LINE upon line upon, LIIIINE. UP. ON. LIIIIIINE. Upon liiiiiine,” stuck in your head for days.

To be very blunt, I was prepared to sort of hate the whole thing. I’m the person who snorts when someone brings up The Work and The Glory in testimony meeting. I roll my eyes when the Relief Society teacher pops in a Hilary Weeks CD to start off her lesson. I just tend to be cynical about some of the cheesier parts of Mormon culture. But by the time the closing credits started to roll, and I was feeling the feels of the prodigal Jimmy reuniting with his family, some of the feels were coming down out of my eyes “like gentle rain through darkened skies.” Saturday’s Warrior is pretty good, and will likely remain a dependable old friend, if not my Mormon-movie eternal soulmate.

I give Saturday’s Warrior 3 out of 5 Kolob twinkles (Angel Moroni statuettes? CTR shields?) for being exactly what it needed to be, and for Jimmy (Kenny Holland is darling, and the best actor and singer in the show, by a long shot.). It’s rated PG for the part where you will have to tell your 8-year-old “no, that is not root beer they’re drinking,” and possibly because of copious amounts of psychedelic tie-dye. Oh, and Pam dies, so be ready for that.

Comments
  • Sherri S. Stradling
    Reply

    I want to start off by saying that I appreciate your ability to give this movie a positive rating, despite your possible desire to have wanted to knock it down (because it restores my faith in the plan, every time I sing those iconic songs) and I know I am not alone in wishing you could have been a little bit more complimentary; please hear me out.

    I was one of those people who remember hearing the story for the first time of Saturday’s Warrior (and ultimately parts of the plan of salvation) in a play, as a tiny person at Grady Gammage (ASU Auditorium) in Mesa, AZ back in the 70’s. I was born in 1969, so I had to have only been 5 or 6 yrs old the first time I saw it. I’ve seen the play ANY chance I could, through the years, and then of course bought the play-on-video as soon as it was available – so I could pass along my love for the truths I believe my tiny heart gained a testimony of over 40 years ago.

    My life as a child was blissful, but as an adult it has been far from the ideal ‘Mormon’ experience. I didn’t get into BYU even though I applied and wanted to go there from the time I could remember (like my parents did) and meet my eternal companion. Instead a couple of years later, I found myself pregnant with my return missionary finance’s baby: married him, divorced by 27 yrs with 3 little children, that I raised while working part-time as I went to college (which took 8 yrs) I stayed active in the church despite obvious single parenting challenges in our culture, took some 2nd chances at marriages that also failed, placed a beautiful child for adoption 14 yrs ago, during my last marriage (to a man with a terrible drug addiction). I’m a parent of teen/adult children who battle with the pain of their drug abuse, and immorality, while trying to stay positive and enjoy them all, especially the innocent ones (my mentally challenged oldest daughter and 3 perfect 1/2 black grand-babies).

    I’m telling you…Sadly, my life has been NOTHING of the perfect LDS family scenario…though my childhood family situation was as close to that ideal: two parent family life. We didn’t have a Jimmy in our family…I’m guessing I was the only child (as the oldest of six) who came close to that as a 20 yr old planning a Temple marriage and having to disappoint my parents with not being worthy to go. I believe with all my heart it is my deep-seeded testimony of the truths in the story “Saturday’s Warrior” that kept and continue to keep me centered in the gospel of Jesus Christ. This story, it’s truths were a lifeline to me, so a testimony of substance could take root in my heart. A testimony that Jesus is the Christ and His Atoning sacrifice affords me the grace that will bring me personally back home to my Father in Heaven. A testimony of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon, of modern day prophets, and that the boy Joseph did, in fact, restore the gospel in these latter-days with all it’s priesthood keys & ordinances.

    Yes, I am saying that my early testimony of what I feel “Saturday’s Warrior” taught me of the plan of happiness, that we lived before we came here and made promises that in fulfilling them will bring us joy and closer to our Father in Heaven, giving us the strength we need to succeed despite our human-ness, despite our failures and because of them. So I do not take lightly the casualness that so many people have in knocking Saturday’s Warrior or whatever cheesiness they find in it…….it is ONLY and always has been a light and gift to me. I love everything about it…and love that it has been made into a movie and that EACH cast member was so beautifully cast-ed with great talent and gorgeous voices. I DID fall in love with Kenny Holland…..but I equally fell in love with Anna Daines, Mason D. Davis, Monica Moore Smith, Allison & Brian Clark, Clint Pulver, Morgan Gunter, Alex Boye…and so on, through all the cast members. They all get a glowing 5 Kolob twinkles, Angel Moroni’s and/or CTR shields in my review…and SUPER KUDOS to Doug Stewart, Lex De Azavedo, Michael Buster, and Heather Ravarino for their creation, vision, and bringing it from stage performance, to video, to the big screen!!

    I guess I’m taking so much time with this comment because I really just don’t understand why people feel a need to BE CYNICAL about the story of Saturday’s Warrior of each of us who works daily winning the battles raging in our hearts…I have a sweet, good friend who always knocks it and I just don’t get it. I love everything thing about it and all that it has given to me through the last L_O_N_G difficult 40 years of my life. I have a ‘Jimmy’ who I believe (with all my heart) will come around someday and if he doesn’t he has all eternity to figure it out because of my promises in the covenants I choose to keep. I love God’s plan, I love free agency, and I love that you wrote your review so I could feel an urge to write a comment, that in doing so, has strengthened my testimony of my love for this sweet story and ultimately God’s plan. Thank you~!!!

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