A routine but entertaining fish-out-of-water comedy made primarily for insider consumption, "Mobsters and Mormons" is also the directing debut of screenwriter John E. Moyer, whose previous three comedies -- "The Singles Ward," "The R.M." and the "Tommy Boy"-inspired "The Home Teachers" -- single-handedly pioneered the Mormon comedy subgenre. Like Moyer's previous films, "Mobsters and Mormons" offers up an appealing mix of broad, amiably self-deprecating comedy, warm sentimentality and earnest self-criticism. It's a sometimes delicate balance, particularly when addressing the narrow parochialism that can often creep into overly homogenized religious communities like those in Utah, but Moyer, who also turns up in a brief supporting part as an FBI agent, does a respectable job of keeping his disparate elements in check. Though the film suffers a bit from uneven production values and some marginal bit casting, star DeCarlo -- previously best known as host of the dating game show "Studs" -- is such a lovable ham that the rough spots don't seem to much matter. Also praiseworthy are Puhich as his wife and the seraphic Scott Christopher ("The Best Two Years") as the tirelessly non-judgmental neighbor determined to do the seemingly impossible and help the transplanted Jerseyites feel at home.
Regardless of how much more mileage there may be in this particular genre, Moyer and distributor HaleStone clearly aren't playing it safe -- of the four films Moyer has written, all of which HaleStone has released, "Mobsters and Mormons" is by far the most fully realized, weaving broad comedy into the context of a story meant less to mindlessly amuse its target audience than prod them to self-reflection. Intermittent shortcomings notwithstanding, that's no lightweight task. Starring Mark DeCarlo, Jeanette Puhich, Clay Taylor and Scott Christopher. Directed and written by John E. Moyer. Produced by Kurt Hale and John E. Moyer. A HaleStone release. Comedy. Rated PG for mild thematic elements, some language and violence. Running time: 97 min