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Film review: 'Zarahemla' is, well, different ...

LDS-themed film aims for adventure but is laughably bad

Published: Friday, Oct. 12 2007 2:11 a.m. MDT

PASSAGE TO ZARAHEMLA — * — Summer Naomi, Moronai Kanekoa, Brian Kary; rated PG-13 (violence, gore, brief drugs, slurs)

"Passage to Zarahemla" has one thing going for it — it's not the same movie that local filmmakers keep offering us over and over again. If nothing else, is isn't just another treacly drama or laughless comedy with some LDS themes.

Unfortunately, that's about all this adventure-fantasy does have going for it.

"Passage to Zarahemla" is laughably awful at times, with some jaw-dropping dumb plotting.

Also, this is a pretty violent movie — even more so than the considerably more professional "Work and the Glory" films. There's some disturbing imagery that definitely justifies the PG-13 rating.

Summer Naomi ("Beauty and the Beast: A Latter-day Tale") stars as Kerra McConnell, who has just lost her mother.

Fearing they will be separated by family services, Kerra and her younger brother, Brock (Brian Kary), have fled California for Leeds, Utah, where their long-missing father has relatives. But strange things have been happening in the nearby woods, where recent seismic activity has apparently opened a portal into the past.

As a result, Nephite warriors roam the forest, and Kerra is reunited with Kiddoni (Moronai Kanekoa), a childhood friend she believed was imaginary. However, the warrior warns her that his ancestral enemies are also nearby, and they may be planning an invasion.

Judging by the results here, writer-director Chris Heimerdinger should stick to writing books (he penned the successful "Tennis Shoes Among the Nephites" series). His filmmaking debut is pretty silly, though, surprisingly, it does boast some computer-graphic effects that are at least as good as those in such recent studio-released fantasy duds as "The Seeker: The Dark Is Rising" and "Dragon Wars (D-War)."

But the pacing is pretty sluggish, and Heimerdinger can't coax much from his cast, aside from some stiff performances. (Kary's conniving Brock is particularly irritating and unlikable.)

"Passage to Zarahemla" is rated PG-13 for strong scenes of violent action (stabbings, shootings, vehicular mayhem, children in peril and violence against women), some gore and blood, brief drug content (references), and slurs based on race. Running time: 107 minutes.


E-mail: jeff@desnews.com

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