‘The Book of Mormon’ Coming to the Screen – Will it Get Past the MPAA?

In a couple of years the vulgar musical sensation The Book of Mormon will be accessible to all! Creators of the production Trey Parker and Matt Stone have told Entertainment Weekly that they plan to adapt the musical for the big screen after it begins a national tour. It will likely be several years before the project takes off, but co-creator Robert Lopez, who also co-wrote Avenue Q, says he is on board and looks forward to the opportunity. Both Parker and Stone have big screen experience with their previous films South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut (1999) and Team America (2004). The Broadway production of The Book of Mormon was produced by film producer and Oscar magnet Scott Rudin, so he would be a natural choice to bring the movie to the big screen.

For those who are unaware, The Book of Mormon tells the story of two Mormon missionaries who are assigned to Uganda for their mission. One well-kept, all-star missionary named Elder Price gets paired with an overweight screw-up named Elder Cunningham. When they arrive in Uganda they are faced with things that missionary school never trained them for such as the ritual removal of clitorises and widespread AIDS. Elder Price can’t take it and splits while Elder Cunningham stays and makes up Book of Mormom stories that serves as parables that suit the particular problems being faced in Uganda. For instance, Brigham Young tried to cut off his daughter’s clitoris and out of anger the Lord turned Young’s nose into a clitoris. The musical goes over the top into the camp category and as you can no doubt tell, it features some of the most hilariously offensive music ever.

The Book of Mormon took home this year’s Tony Award for Best Musical among a slew of others and is one of the most critically acclaimed shows in years. It opened publicly shortly after the Tony Awards and has sold out every performance since. The musical stars Andrew Rannelis as Elder Price and Josh Gad as Elder Cunningham.

A big screen adaptation of this hilariously vulgar musical sounds wonderful and with a solid comedy director (maybe Parker) and good cast (hopefully reflective of the Broadway cast) it could be great. However, there is one issue that might not go over as well with the film version that was allowed to slide on stage – the incredible offensiveness. The Motion Picture Association of America is a lot stricter with their standards than the bodies that maintain standards on Broadway. Typically stage plays are allowed to show a lot more sexuality (see “Equus”) and contain a lot more vulgarity (see “Spring Awakening”) before the censors sweep in. With the current cut of The Book of Mormon it would seem like it would have to go NC-17, which may affect its audience. I can’t see how the MPAA would allow a chorus of Ugandans to sing “No Joseph Smith, don’t fuck a baby” without dropping an “Adults Only” rating.

I am very excited for the prospect of a film version of this brilliant musical, but I am hesitant of censors. Listen to the below track for a full idea of what I mean. It occurs toward the end of the musical when elders from the Mormon Church in America visit Uganda to see what Elder Price and Elder Cunningham have been teaching the Ugandans.

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  • Asif Khan

    never heard of it :(

  • Eric M

    Oh, the MPAA…. how I love you. I wish I could express my delight in all the times where I’ve seen a movie and said, “Wow, I’m glad you guys stepped in and laid down the law. Someone else better decide what is ‘decent’, since I’m certainly not able to do so”

  • This is new to me … and the premise intrigues me. I can certainly see why it’ll provoke controversy.

  • And ditto to what Eric said about the frigging MPAA. :)

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