After the hit musical “The Book of Mormon” opened on Broadway in 2011 — and especially after it won a bucketful of Tony Awards — a question was posed to me with some frequency: “Are you going to go see it?”
The questioners knew that my wife and I had been to New York City several times and had enjoyed some Broadway shows, but I would always answer definitively: "Um, no."
Most of these queries came from people who know that, as a Mormon movie critic, I’ve long had an interest in how the LDS Church and its members are portrayed in the media — books, plays, comic books, TV shows and, of course, movies.
Later, after a few friends — both those who are not LDS as well as some who are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — had seen “The Book of Mormon” in Manhattan, they would tell me how much they laughed and that I should consider going. And again I’d say: "Um, no."
The question recurred when the touring show came through Salt Lake City two years ago, and it’s come up again for the current run. My answer is always the same.
But don’t misinterpret my reluctance. It’s not because I might find the jokes about the church offensive.
I’ve seen and read a lot of material out there that lampoons the LDS faith, some of it benign, some of it silly, some of it pointedly satirical and some of it quite vicious.
I’m also familiar with the body of work by “Book of Mormon” authors Trey Parker and Matt Stone, who’ve been mocking the church from their start in show business — beginning with their 1993 student film “Cannibal! The Musical,” which featured a Mormon character, and the 1997 movie “Orgazmo,” in which Parker plays an LDS missionary who becomes a porn star.
And 1997 was also the year that Parker and Stone’s long-running animated cable sitcom “South Park” made its debut, and there have been several episodes that skewer the LDS Church.
But it’s not their penchant for all things Mormon that has me bypassing “The Book of Mormon.” By all accounts, Parker and Stone have leavened the sour notes with a sweet coda, which is also true of their other Mormon spoofs. Even the full “South Park” episode titled “All About Mormons,” which portrays church founder Joseph Smith in a rather unflattering light, ends on a note that says Mormons are good people. Deluded, but good.
No, my reason for just saying no has more to do with the stage production’s level of bawdiness than its attacks on Mormonism.
I won’t see “The Book of Mormon” for the same reason I haven’t seen such movies as “Bridesmaids” or “Knocked Up” or “Ted” — or if you’d like more recent examples, “Girls Trip,” “The House,” “Rough Night” “Snatched,” “Baywatch” and “CHIPS,” all of which opened this year.
That’s right. I just don’t care for raunchy comedies. I like to laugh but I don’t like to cringe.
This won’t come as news to regular readers, of course. I’ve written about this many times before. Sleazy jokes about bodily functions or human body parts or sexual activity — or whatever other gross-out arena you’d like to suggest — are just lazy as far as I’m concerned. Same with, as the movie ratings call it, “pervasive language,” in particular the use of the F-bomb as a punchline.
Sorry, I heard all those words and all those jokes when I was in junior high and outgrew them during high school.
And when I was the Deseret News movie critic in the 1980s and ’90s, back in the days when the paper reviewed every movie that came through Salt Lake City, I saw more than my fair share of sleazy comedies.
But back then such films were not the only game in town. For every “Porky’s” there was a “Tootsie.” For every “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” there was a “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.”
Not so today. Raunchy comedies rule the multiplex, and clean comedies, especially good ones, are the rare exception.
This has been the case for so long now that I’ve become weary of what are, really, the same old recycled gags in endless variations. So, since I no longer have to, I just don’t go to those films anymore. And for the same reason, I also don’t watch original programming by HBO, Showtime, Netflix, Amazon and various other TV networks and streaming sites.
Even if “The Book of Mormon” musical is made into a movie, I probably won’t see it.
Perhaps this is a generational thing. I prefer things to be more subtle and less in your face. Younger audiences don’t seem to mind all the sleaze. It’s been so pervasive that many of them have grown up on it.
So call me a prude if you must. I’ve been called worse.
But let’s be clear. I’m not suggesting that “The Book of Mormon” be picketed or boycotted or dismissed as an art form. There’s obviously an audience for it, and for all the other shows I’ve described above.
It’s just that, well, that audience isn’t me.
So, before you ask: Um, no.