Film review: 'Work and Glory III' seems anticlimactic but does quite well for its limited budget

Published: Wednesday, Nov. 22 2006 12:08 a.m. MST

THE WORK AND THE GLORY III: A HOUSE DIVIDED — ** — Eric Johnson, Sam Hennings, Meredith Salenger; rated PG (violence); Carmike 12 and Ritz 15 Theaters; Century Theatres 16 (Sandy); Cinemark 24 at Jordan Landing; Megaplex 12 at the Gateway; Megaplex 17 at Jordan Commons; Megaplex 20 at the District; Regency Trolley Square Mall Theaters.

"The Work and the Glory III: A House Divided" is the conclusion to a trilogy of movies based on General Authority Gerald N. Lund's best-selling novels about early LDS history. But for a supposed ending, the film seems curiously anticlimactic.

It's almost as if the films are dramatically spent — especially after they took a considerably darker turn in the second installment, "American Zion," which was actually shot back-to-back with this follow-up.

As a result, "Work III" has little dramatic tension and winds up being a little flat. It plays out more like a stretched-out, 90-plus-minute "capper" scene rather than a fully satisfying, epic cinematic story.

"A House Divided" finds the members of the Steed family still at odds. Joshua (Eric Johnson) has fled Missouri, having nearly killed his younger brother Nathan (Alexander Carroll), an LDS convert. (Joshua is fervently anti-LDS.)

He has also left a wife (Emily Podleski) and child behind in Missouri — because of their religious differences — though he's begun seeing Caroline Mendenhall (Meredith Salenger), a widowed young mother.

Meanwhile, family patriarch Benjamin (Sam Hennings) is conflicted about his family's religious conversion as well (his wife and most of his children have converted). He's even more troubled by his need to seek vengeance on his son, Joshua.

The resolution to the Steed family squabbles feels more inevitable than anything else. And a subplot that examines early financial problems for the nascent LDS Church is dull and pretty much drags things to a screeching halt.

It certainly doesn't help that the main, fictional characters are considerably less interesting than the real-life ones. (Jonathan Scarfe's Joseph Smith and Andrew Bowen's Brigham Young again steal every scene they're in.)

Still, the film does boast surprisingly good production values, considering its limited budget (it was made for about a tenth as much as a normal Hollywood production).

"The Work and the Glory III: A House Divided" is rated PG for violence (gunplay and civil unrest), as well as some disturbing violent imagery (flashbacks from the second movie). Running time: 96 minutes.


E-mail: jeff@desnews.com