Film — The Work and The Glory (G)
The Work and The Glory (G)

by Amy Diaz

Joseph Smith, the founder of the Church of Jesus Christ Latter Day Saints, proves that not all religious movies are campy fun, some are just God-help-us dull in The Work and The Glory, a period piece about tolerance and family relationships and how a game called “stick pull” passed for entertainment in the pre-Civil War world.

Stick pull. Literally, two guys sit across from each other and pull on a stick. The stronger man eventually flips the weaker man over his head, thus winning the game. Wheee. The next time someone goes on about the intellectual deadening caused by television, remind them that before TV there was stick pull.

On the other hand, Stick Pull helps separate the men from the boys and can we really say that about CSI: Miami? Joseph Smith (Jonathan Scarfe) is a hearty, presidential-looking man who is all gentle politeness over steely resolve. A hired hand, he plays a game of stick pull with Joshua Steed (Eric Johnson), oldest son of the Steed family. The Steeds are new in town and have hired Joseph and his brother Hyrum (Ryan Wood) to help them work their land. We don’t know much about the Steed family in the beginning other than that Joshua has a big crush on local girl Lydia (Tiffany Dupont) and is further along at getting her attention than his brother Nathan (Alexander Caroll). But after Joshua loses the game of stick pull, he turns in to a big whiny baby, thus signifying his role as the Bad Brother. (Though, he has dark floppy, teenager hair and Nathan has sandy-colored, well-coiffed friendly-banker hair, so in retrospect it was easy to tell good from evil from the beginning).

Joshua soon takes up with a group of drunken losers and starts to have it in for Joseph, who is the cause of some controversy in the small New York town. Joseph claims to have spoken to God and know the whereabouts of a gold Bible. Nathan, however, is intrigued by Joseph’s take on Christianity and tries to preach tolerance to his brother, the townsfolk and also his strict father (Sam Hennings). Papa Steed is so anti-Joseph Smith that he even forbids his wife Mary Ann (Brenda Strong — the dead Mary Alice from Desperate Housewives) to read the newly printed Book of Mormon. Lots of set jaws and anachronistic “that’s the devil’s work” arguments threaten to pull the Steed family asunder and keep either of the Steed boys from winning the pretty Lydia.

The Work and The Glory is a Latter Day Saints (LDS)-funded film that plays much like the “Pope as a young man comics” Catholic children read as kids — more-or-less nice to look at, interesting story, simplistic storytelling. As with the life of Karol Wojtyla, the early days of Joseph Smith offer much to be intrigued by on a historical level no matter what your beliefs or opinions. But The Work and The Glory tries a little too hard to be a Sunday school lesson — stand up for your religion, obey your parents/husband even if you must disagree with them, tolerance is good, drinking and floppy hair are bad — to allow the historical details (or for that matter any doctrine) to enter the movie. A good-enough movie for Mormon children, I doubt the film holds much to interest anyone else.

- Amy Diaz

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