14 September 2005 | rmpc52
a cute look at a silly but innocent world
Baptists at Our Barbecue is a movie apparently produced primarily for a Mormon audience. By way of example, there are any number of inside jokes and references that Gentiles will probably miss entirely, a stark contrast to Garrison Keillor's Lake Woebegon where even outsiders get the jokes. But much like Lake Woebegon, the essential plot and almost comic innocence of the characters who populate this movie make it broadly appealing.
The story is simple enough: an unmarried, 29 year-old Mormon forest ranger decides to accept a transfer to the oddball town of Longfellow to escape the efforts of his mother (and the efforts of the mothers of every unmarried girl in Provo) to get him hitched. But Longfellow is no ordinary town. Tucked away somewhere in the beautiful Rockies, it is a community precisely divided between Baptists and Mormons. This balance, and the competition is engenders, essentially fuels the movie. Yes, there are the colorful and eccentric characters we have come to expect from small town settings ever since Andy Griffith introduced us to Barney, Floyd and the rest of the off-kilter residents of Mayberry; and there is the central love story between "Tartan," the main character, and the incredibly beautiful "Charity," played by Heather Beers. There is even an antagonist, the pathetic "Rich" who provides the movie's small amount of tension and danger.
What unfolds is general silliness wrapped around a deeper story of the Baptist and Mormon communities coming together. Recalling the original Star Trek episode, "Let That Be Your Last Battlefield," starring Frank Gorshin, the essential point of this movie is that while the Mormons and Baptists of Longfellow may see each other as starkly "different," to the eyes of outsiders they are in fact all but identical. Where skin-deep differences in "Let That Be
" led to tragedy, however, the characters in Barbecue eventually come to see that the differences are unimportant.
Neither the script nor the essential story call for great acting, and the cast does a more than decent job engaging us in the respective quirks of their characters. If there is one fault to be found in this movie it is that in an effort to depict the characters as completely wholesome, even essential human emotions are bleached out of existence. While the addition of graphic sex would NOT have improved the story one iota, the main character's lack of response when his house is torched by the local miscreant strikes a dissonant chord and somehow loses him the sympathy the audience has built for him. But this is a small quibble and maybe there really are towns like this somewhere where people just naturally and repeatedly turn the other cheek Would that it were so
.we could all learn a lesson from such tolerance.