"The Work and the Story" is as full of cinematic contradictions as any film in recent memory.
The filmmakers claim they've tried to make something that will appeal to audiences outside of the usual LDS-film demographic — yet it's filled with jokes and references that will only make sense to that audience.
Also, some of the things the film says may actually polarize that same demographic, which is pretty limited to begin with.
On the plus side, "The Work and the Story" does show a better understanding of storytelling and features more of a film "vocabulary" than some of its recent cinematic brethren. That despite its being stuck with a premise that can only go so far.
The film is a "mockumentary" spoofing the recent glut of LDS-specific filmmaking, similar in style to Christopher Guest's films "Waiting for Guffman," "Best in Show" and, more recently, "A Mighty Wind."
"The Work and the Story" pretends to investigate the disappearance of Richard Dutcher, the writer/director/star of "God's Army" and the man credited with starting this recent surge in Mormon cinema.
Dutcher has disappeared after the release of his second film, the murder-mystery "Brigham City." While others try to find out where Dutcher has gone, the largely unseen documentarians here conclude that he is already dead and buried. In fact, they're trying to get in on the ground level as three other filmmakers attempt to fill Dutcher's shoes.
Unfortunately, they're all spectacular failures: Judy Schumway (Jen Hoskins) makes feminist films, despite being a housewife and mother; Kevin Evans (Eric Artell) . . . well, he can't even tell his mother what he does; and then there's Peter Beuhmann (this film's writer/director, Nathan Smith Jones), who may have had something to do with Dutcher's disappearance.
Though most of the gags fall flat, there's at least one very funny bit (which suggests there is a way to make a movie based on the Book of Mormon with graphic violence).
Also, though Smith Jones does have a hard time reining himself in as a performer, he's actually managed to make the insufferable Scott Christopher less irksome than usual (albeit only slightly).
However, the film builds to one of the weirdest endings ever — an homage of sorts to "Raising Arizona," which may only make you wish you were watching that film instead of this one.
"The Work and the Story" is not rated but would probably receive a PG for some slapstick violence and some mildly vulgar humor. Running time: 77 minutes.