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Gospel Ideals

I Write for GospelIdeals.org

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As we drove to attend the premiere of the new Saturday's Warrior film, my wife and I listened to the original soundtrack in the car. Two things popped out at me right away: 1. The messages here are really great. 2. The music really dates itself.

With these two conclusions in mind, I went into the showing being sold on the concept of updating the production for the current generation.  I was also excited, as I knew several of the cast members and was happy to see their chance of big screen glory.

In talking about my thoughts, I'm going to break it down into three sections: what I liked, what didn't work for me, and then what some of my favorite moments were.

This review will contain mild spoilers,

Thumbs Up: 

They did an excellent job in updating the music. The arrangements are great, and gone are the overabundance of synthesized instruments. The vocalists do a wonderful job of portraying the emotion of the story while still sounding musically sound.

They added a few new songs for this production and they were honestly some of the highest points. In particular, there's one in the middle that has a great cameo from The Piano Guys in their full 70s splendor. That really put a smile on my face.

I liked the decision to cut some songs from the production. They did this in a way that still preserved the basic plot elements, but allowed for better pacing while leaving some of the cheesier elements in the past. Numbers such as "We All Have Daddy's Nose" and "Will I Wait for You?" have gone the way of bell bottoms and flower power, though you will still see nods to both songs in the film.

The casting was spot on. They did a great job making even some of the cheesier lines more accessible, and I felt more emotionally invested in the characters than I have in past productions. For me, standouts were Kenny Holland channeling a 70s bad boy as Jimmy, Anna Daines emotional and spiritual performance as Pam, Monica Moore Smith's spunky Julie, and the "fearlessly extraordinary" duo of Clint Pulver and Morgan Gunter as Elders Kessler and Greene.

Thumbs Down:

From the very first scene, I noticed that the video and the audio were often slightly out of sync during the singing. This proved slightly detracting throughout as the singers' mouths did not move exactly with the song.

The acoustics of the songs sound completely different than when the actors are speaking. This was especially noticeable when the characters were singing outside and there was suddenly a bunch of reverb in their singing. This was also a bit distracting and drew me out of the story a few times.

My Favorite Moments: 

Alex Boye doing his thing as an angel.

A big dance scene in a park that made me think of "Enchanted".

The song "Paper Dream" moved and inspired me, as did many of the other numbers.

Missionary antics and hilarity.

Interviews with the Cast 

I caught up with two of the cast members, Monica Moore Smith, who played Julie, and Anna Daines, who played Pam, and asked them each the same few questions. Here's what they had to say:

1. Before doing this, how well did you know "Saturday's Warrior"? What appealed to you about becoming part of the production?

Anna:

Like many born-and-raised Mormons, I grew up singing along to the 1989 video version. I think my sister and I even acted it out a few times. As an adult though, I was a bit hesitant to audition-- I worried that (because of the clear 80s vibe of the VHS I knew so well) it might be a little too dated and corny. As soon as I read the re-worked screenplay, though, I knew it was something I wanted to be a part of. This version takes everything people loved about Saturday's Warrior and enhances it, while adding necessary weight and complexity to the iconic characters. It is quite the feat.

Monica:

I am an eighth generation Mormon. The original Saturday’s Warrior stage play was something from my parent’s era. Neither of them saw the musical, but both knew of it and knew much of the music. My mom has a few friends in what is now referred to as the VHS version and we had a copy of it, so I had seen it a few times, but by no means had watched it over and over. My strongest memory of the VHS—for some reason I cannot explain—was Julie getting wrapped up as a present for Jimmy’s birthday. Sadly (or…probably not), that scene doesn’t appear in the motion picture. In fact, in one of the callbacks when I was asked to sing one of the songs without sheet music, I had to look up YouTube videos to learn them. The first thing that attracted me was the opportunity to be in a full-length feature film. I have done Mormon Messages and music videos and shorts, etc., but had never been in a theater-released movie. Once I began the (very long) callback process—and met the people involved—I was hooked. The creators, cast, and crew are all amazing individuals. I knew I wanted to work with them. I didn’t know how successful a remake of Saturday’s Warrior would be, but I trusted Michael Buster (the director) and knew he would put his heart into this project. I also happen to know the VHS version of Julie Flinders and she’s super cool.

2. What was your personal favorite scene to film? What's your favorite song from the movie and why?

Anna:

I think Kenny and I (Kenny Holland, playing Jimmy Flinders) both had an incredible experience shooting "Line Upon Line." Our natural ease and comradery the first day we looked at that scene was so refreshing, and the film ended up highlighting the relationship of the twins, Jimmy and Pam, even more because of this wonderful chemistry we had. The movie largely centers on their relationship and individual struggles for faith and happiness. The focus of the "Line Upon Line" too, hits home for so many. Life is hard and confusing, and all we can do is our best. The song touched Kenny and I deeply because of our own life experiences and the deepened backstory of our characters in this adaptation. No spoilers, but the setting and actions of the scene are very significant in the film.

Monica:
Julie is such a dynamic character and she interacts with most of the cast at some point. There were so many fun scenes that I can’t say I have a favorite. One of the craziest scenes to film involved getting my first kiss ever—on a set, with the whole video village watching, and a camera drone buzzing over my head. Michael Buster surprised me with that one right before we shot the scene, as it was not in the script.
One of my favorite parts about filming was getting to watch my cast mates scenes being filmed. Everyone in the cast is so incredibly talented, I learned so much watching each of them bring the script to life. My favorite song has to be the Saturday’s Warrior theme. It’s so iconic. When it comes on at the end of the movie you can’t help but feel a strong wave of the spirit. It is truly remarkable.

3.What do you hope people will walk away with after seeing this movie?

Anna:

I hope long-time fans will enjoy seeing a new incarnation of this beloved story, with its enhanced and updated music and story. I hope long-time cynics (I admit I was one even through some of the audition process) will suspend their disbelief long enough to get settled into the story and the movie musical genre. Once they do, it's pretty inevitable that they will feel something.


Monica:

I hope they have fun. I hope they are moved. I hope they feel positive and hopeful. Our choices impact our future options so we must make the best ones. Treat people with love and kindness, because you never know when you’ll loose them. Most of all I hope they see the possibility that there is more to life than just this life.


For more about the movie and the cast, following them on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/saturdayswarrior



And go out and see the show! It's starting with a Utah release, but hopefully will get shown in other places based on demand.  Opening weekend went very well, and it cracked the top 30 movies in the U.S. right now although it was only shown on nine screens. Hopefully, we'll see "line upon line" of people showing up in the coming weeks!








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