The Other Side of Heaven
How are audiences going to remember the vague, colorless title of the family-friendly flick The Other Side of Heaven? Just think of it as "that Mormon movie." It's a true story set in the squeaky-clean mid-1950s, where native Iowan John Groberg (Christopher Gorham) recalls his youth serving as a missionary in the Tongan Islands. Groberg weathers storms, survives famine, and helps rebuild and strengthen the tiny island community, all while impressing upon the denizens the virtues of chastity (he's saving himself for his college sweetheart, natch) and temperance. In other words, the earnest missionary comes off as the world's biggest square (he wears a tie while living in a grass hut, for God's sake), but his kindness and persistence eventually pay off in the form converts. Writer/director Mitch Davis doesn't seem to know how to resolve catastrophes and conflicts for maximum payoff, and The Other Side's perspective on the religious life is muddled and superficial and shies away from tough questions. (Could his Western values represent a corruptive force?) This visually stunning film (shot in New Zealand and the Cook Islands) may suit families on the lookout for wholesome fare, but not those uncomfortable with the G word.