Return With Honor AKA Return (The) AKA Return With Honor: A Missionary Homecoming
R1 - America - Excel Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: James Teitelbaum (7th January 2008).
The Film

A quote on the back of the DVD case claims that (according to "Award-Winning National Radio Personality Bob Lonsbury") this is "The best Mormon drama yet!" Having sat through this amateurish melodrama, my main concern is the sheer terror of someday having to sit through the worst Mormon drama.
A young man named Rowe McDonald (Javen Tanner) is a missionary who has just spent two years in Las Vegas telling other people that their religion isn't as good as his. He has an estranged mother, a best buddy, and a perky fiancée waiting for him in Utah. Coming home from the airport, Rowe encounters a cab driver who sets up the tone for the rest of the story: the cabbie doesn't understand why Rowe and his pals would waste two years on a mission to force their views down other people's throats. Rowe counters with a question as to why the cabbie would waste twenty-three years driving a cab. I think that the film makers were supposed to have dazzled us with Rowe's sharp comeback, but of course the difference here is that for the cabbie, driving is his means to earn a living, feed his family, and to keep a roof over his head. He doesn't have much of a choice, and if he did quit his job, Rowe would be walking home from that airport. Personally, I sided with the cabbie, and this is the first of many, many failures on the part of the filmmakers. We are supposed to side with Rowe, but he comes off as a whiny, self-righteous, and smug throughout the film. Whenever someone tells him to stop being judgmental and preachy, they always have a stronger point of view than Rowe does. The Mormon position in this film actually comes off as very weak. The good news is that a truck hits the cab, and Rowe dies. The bad news is that Rowe goes to heaven, sees god, and is given sixty days to come back to Earth, in order to save his poor mother's soul. So now the viewer has to put up with this idiot for another hour and a half.

Rowe finally makes it home to discover that his best buddy is now (gasp!) a musician and he even has a tattoo! This makes him look like the devil, according to Rowe. Rowe's fiancée turns out to be the high maintenance type, and Rowe's mother is now a bar tender. In Rowe's eyes this is more or less as bad as being a whore who specializes in donkey shows. He spends the next few weeks stalking his mom at the tavern she works in. Rowe's mother doesn't want to talk to him. So he camps out at a table at her job, drinking sodas. For some reason it never occurs to this genius to just walk over to the bar and say hi to mom; he has to sit petulantly at his table and wait for her. The bar manager (mom's boyfriend; played with gusto by Raymond Zeiters), is perhaps the single biggest prick in movie history. That's really saying something. When Rowe engineers their break-up, his mother becomes homeless and jobless. This issue is never really addressed.

With two months to live, Rowe doesn't spend his time living, at all. He doesn't do anything, he doesn't accomplish anything, he doesn't have any fun, he doesn't better himself, and he doesn't better the world. He sort of wants to get laid, but he can't even bring himself to utter the word 'sex'. He doesn't tell anyone that he is going to die, and this throws a wrench into his wedding plans when he starts acting twitchy during the planning. All Rowe does do is petulantly sit around and tell other people how bad they are, while crossing his remaining days off on a calendar.

Rowe judges a cocktail waitress, telling his buddy (who likes her) that she is a whore; in reality she is a physical therapy major at college who also drives drunk people home in order to see to their safety. Rowe's musician buddy is also under judgment, along with every other heathen scum who crosses the sanctimonious Rowe's path. Rowe judges his mother for the mortal sin of being a bartender. He won't tell anyone in his smug circle about her job, because they'd all disown him, apparently. Rowe can't even tell his fiancée that he is at the bar to see his mom, because she'd abandon him based on his mother's career choice. So instead she leaves him (after smelling cigarette smoke on his clothes), for the simple reason that he has been in a bar. Being in bars is apparently really, really bad if you're a Mormon. Within a week, this cloyingly pious girl, who has been planning their wedding for two years, has a suave and flashy new boyfriend with a convertible.

If this whole story seems completely non-sensical, that is because it is. At every turn, the people in this film -- Rowe in particular -- behave in increasingly idiotic ways, acting less like human beings, and more like cardboard cut-out characters in a supremely badly written movie. Which is exactly what this is.

Video

This film is in the widescreen aspect ratio of 1.78:1, enhanced for 16x9 televisions. Running time is 1:45:22, divided into 12 chapters. The cinematography is workmanlike, but the print is clean and the DVD image looks fine. I noted a few flecks of dust on the print, but they are quite minimal and don't detract from whatever entertainment you may be experiencing.

Audio

"Return With Honor" is presented in English Dolby Digital 5.1 and English Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround. Dialogue is mostly clear, and the surrounds are used minimally. This is a quiet drama, so six-speaker whiz-bang isn't happening here.

This disc does not feature any optional subtitles.

Extras

Excel have released this film with extras that include an audio commentary, a theatrical trailer plus a collection of bonus trailers. Below is a closer look at these supplements.

Writer/producer Tracey Garner and director Michael Amundsen provide a feature-length audio commentary which is lively and scene specific, most of the time they are reminiscing about the making of the film, while occasionally providing insight into the story. They also discuss the constraints of making a film that is for such a specific audience.

The only extra (aside from the commentary) is the film's original theatrical trailer which runs for 2 minutes 4 seconds and bonus trailers for:

- "Stalking Santa" which runs for 2 minutes 19 seconds.
- "Anxiously Engaged" which runs for 31 seconds.
- "The Work and The Glory 3" which runs for 2 minutes 15 seconds.

Overall

The Film: F Video: B Audio: B Extras: C Overall: C-

 


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