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Film review: ‘Return with Honor’ preachy, misguided

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RETURN WITH HONOR: A MISSIONARY HOMECOMING — * 1/2 — Javen Tanner, Tavya Patch, Joey Jalalian; rated PG (violence, vulgarity, mild profanity)

The tone of "Return With Honor: A Missionary Homecoming" is all wrong. The film features the kind of fantastic premise that can't possibly be told with a straight face, as a straight-up drama.

Instead, it should have been a comedy, like the considerably better 1941 fantasy "Here Comes Mr. Jordan"or its 1978 remake "Heaven Can Wait."

Unfortunately, in the process of trying to provide audiences with a serious inspirational message, the makers of "Return With Honor" eventually turn this earnest but misguided film into an unintentional comedy.

As the title suggests, the film centers on an LDS Church missionary, Rowe McDonald (Javen Tanner), who's recently completed two years' of laboring in Las Vegas. Rowe wants nothing more than to be reunited with his fiancee, Alley (Joey Jalalian). Unfortunately, on the way home his taxi is struck by another vehicle.

Rowe apparently dies from his injuries, but he is mysteriously granted more time on Earth — he's given 60 days to finish his life's work, which includes converting his apparently wayward mother, Trish (Tavya Patch).

So Rowe returns to Earth as a more determined man. And Alley, his wife-to-be, is wondering why he's suddenly acting so strange, and why he appears to be dragging his feet when it comes to their upcoming wedding.

The film's characters are a collection of one-note cliches, including anti-religious bigots, tattooed rockers and a waitress with a heart of gold. And the dialogue — courtesy of screenwriter/producer Tracy Garner (who also plays Trish's bar-owner boss and boyfriend) — includes such cheese as a line about "the speed of love." Ugh!

As for Tanner's holier-than-thou Rowe, he's such a preachy jerk that you may wish he had actually died at the start of the movie.

"Return With Honor: A Missionary Homecoming" is rated PG for some brief violence (bar brawling and a vehicular collision, mostly overheard), some suggestive talk and mild sexual humor, and scattered, mild profanity (religion-based). Running time: 103 minutes.

E-mail: jeff@desnews.com