The Singles Ward

As a frequent vociferous critic of religious films, this reviewer enjoys watching them because they are usually so sub-par. This makes The Singles Ward an actual disappointment (or is that a nice surprise?). It's actually an okay film. Nothing to talk about, but a step ahead of many of its peers. However, one should not that is film was not made for an audience other than that of the Mormon church, which may be one reason why it is more enjoyable. The urge to preach is not there, since everybody watching already has the same beliefs as the film. The movie can focus on actually telling a story rather than trying to convert viewers. Storywise, this falls squarely into the romantic comedy category, which is not necessarily a great place to be. As genre, it tends to be stale and formulaic, and The Singles Ward follows the typical story arc and has the same types of characters as the entire genre, with the notable exception that almost everybody is Mormon. For anybody living in a cave, this means that boy meets girl and they dislike each other, so they must somehow grow to like each other, then one person does something stupid and the two break it. Then the obvious thing happens next.

The boy in question is Jonathan (Will Swenson), a Dean Cain lookalike who is a stand-up comedian. He is also divorced and in his mid-twenties, thereby making him an unofficial pariah in his church. Although he keeps many of the Church beliefs, he does is not actively and for most purposes is MIA. In steps Cammie (Connie Young), the extremely attractive new events coordinator. Jonathan unknowingly brushed off Cammie in a phone call. The two meet in person and hit it off, and when Cammie discovers who he actually is, she is enraged. Jonathan is struggling with issues of belonging. He feels torn between the secular world, which he is growing to enjoy, and the Church, where he feels like a member of the family. Spending time with Cammie makes him feel special, and because of this, he wants to do everything he can to convince her that he is indeed a good guy.

This means that he begins going back to church, and involving himself in activities. This is the main issue with The Singles Ward. The main goal is to have Jonathan undergo some sort of epiphany where he will return to the church. He does, but in writer/director Kurt Hale and co-writer John E. Moyer's script, it is all because he wants to go out with Cammie (hey, who wouldn't?). So his noble intentions seem tainted, and a tad bit disingenuous. If not for his desire, he would still be the same way. However, Hale and Moyer inject enough good feeling and lightheartedness into the script to make it passably enjoying. Swenson and Young have a nice chemistry together, and are appealing as the stars. The co-stars are oafish and hastily sketched, but they always are in these types of movies.

The second problem with The Singles Ward lies in its inaccessibility. It is not too accessible for non-Mormons. For those who choose to watch it, they will probably have a nice time, but will wonder what these people are doing or what they're talking about. It just helps to have an understanding of the Mormon Church, not necessarily what they believe, but more of the culture surrounding it. Hale also has a good time packing The Singles Ward full of cameos, but unfortunately these are only amusing to Mormons, who are probably the only people that can identify most of the guest stars.

Mongoose Rates It: Okay.
1 hour, 40 minutes, Rated PG for mild thematic elements and brief language.

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