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By Brad Slager | September 17, 2004

I feel oddly swindled by this release. The direct rental market is so rife with misleading marketing and deceptive cover art that I have a honed cynicism in regards to these practices. However I was duped by “The Home Teachers”, made all the more worse by whom it was doing the duping. The cover art suggested an unfunny farcical romp—correct there. The package description alluded to a pair of home teachers who had to hit 100% by the month’s end—benign details that would make sense to only a select group of viewers. But the basis is not made clear until you drop coin on the rental fee, and only then in your home does text appear as a prologue explaining the specifics.

It turns out home teachers are a group of Latter Day Saints members who are assigned a list of fellow parishioners to counsel and tutor in visits, the goal being to fulfill the quota each month. This is a film from Halestorm Entertainment, a detail I should have picked up on, but I still find it remarkable that they would produce an unabashed Mormon production and then resort to duplicity to prod additional rentals. There is no mistaking that this is purely L.D.S. entertainment beyond the storyline as the script is filled with references that are germane to the faith and denizens of the Salt Lake region.

The crux here revolves around two differing personalities paired up for the sake of comedy. During a seminar we greet Greg Blazer, a portly slacker-type father of three (with a blonde wife who is out of his league) who has nothing more on his mind than dashing out of church in a rush to get home and to watch the football game. Also in class is Nelson Parker, a meticulous task master who is…oh forget all that, just call him a nerd. There is little surprise when these polar opposites are teamed to become a new home teaching duo. Greg is surprised though when Nelson elects to commence with their list while there is only one day left in the month, rather than beginning in a few days. He is further annoyed when Nelson shows up at his house just as he settles in to watch football.

After some whining and bickering with the wife Greg is compelled to join Nelson and begin their visitations. From there things devolve into weak attempts at mirth, including toilet humor (literally). At one visit Greg destroys a bathroom, ruins a wedding dress, crashes through the floor, and launches the dinner through the window. As the pair drives off the wife is in the front lawn sobbing—not for her destroyed home but for the turkey lying in the petunias. The next stop is to a family who is holding a memorial service for a departed family member in Colorado and Nelson declares they have to drive to the location to visit.

During the ride we get inundated with numerous obscurities, some you can follow and others that are plain incomprehensible. During a day dream sequence Greg is celebrating when a sports reporter asks what he is going to do now, and he replies, “I’m going to Lagoon!!” , referencing an amusement park in Utah. During a rest stop Nelson chastises Greg because purchasing food on Sunday is the slippery slope to hell. (I think eating truck stop nachos will give Greg punishment enough.) Of course this ban on purchases also includes gas, which makes taking a road trip ill-advised. One detail that was lost on me was Greg referring to having to take a leak as, “My ceiling tile is chafing.” Anyone in Provo who can help me with that one please write.

After more slapstick at the wake our pair is given a deer head to take back with them, leading to rather dubious comedic set ups, starting with being given a deer head. Walking in the woods Greg puts the deer head on his own melon and draws fire from hunters, and another time he is almost run over wearing the trophy. While I kept from unrestrained lambasting of Mormons I couldn’t help but become struck by their own broad portrayal of stereotypes. The hunters are typically inbred dolts, and then the guys are picked up by a white trash couple, played for cheap laughs. It gives me the sense of the audio-visual geeks mocking the chess club members.

It was about this point where I figured out what was really grating me about this unfunny attempt. The corpulent trouble maker and the fastidious and stern straight man—this is the L.D.S. version of Farley and Spade in “Black Sheep”. I have to feel there is a problem with a religious backed production that resorts to sophistry in marketing and plagiarism with the script. Those sins are almost as big as the movie is itself.

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