‘We’re saving marriages with this movie’: Family-friendly film hopes to change narrative on holiday movies

Entertainment

Courtesy of Pitch White Entertainment

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – What do you get when you mix Napoleon Dynamite, an Olympic gymnast, a “Deal or No Deal” suitcase model, an “American Idol” star, and a BYU Studio C comedian?

An absolute romp on the movie set, the cast of “Funny Thing About Love,” an upcoming family-friendly comedy tells ABC4.com.

“It was very much like summer camp,” Summer Bellessa, who held suitcase 25 on the popular game show and plays the female lead, Samantha, in the film.

Playing cards, enjoying time away from their responsibilities as parents, and forcing reluctant co-stars to watch and gossip over episodes of “The Bachelor” were a few of the camp-like activities the actors working on the movie took part in. They made the most of their time secluded in semi-quarantine in a hotel in Arizona while working on a truncated shooting schedule.

They had to. The movie’s writer and director, Adam White, intentionally placed his actors in a part of Mesa, Arizona that was “in the middle of nowhere.”

“There wasn’t anything close that they could go do,” White explains. “They didn’t know this but that was very purposeful.”

It makes sense, especially considering the film was shot while the COVID-19 pandemic was tightening its grip around the globe in the spring of 2020. Wanting to ensure the safety of the entire crew, while also keeping the production alive, White isolated the actors in the hotel for the entirety of the two-week shoot.

“If someone got COVID, we would have had to shut the whole movie down and it would be over,” says White. So we just were literally like, let’s just keep all the actors in the hotel, and then bring them to set and take them back to the hotel. It was like they were in prison without knowing it.”

A fun prison though, he qualifies.

The movie brought together a collection of funny and fun people together for the project, which tells a story of a love triangle mixed up in the same home around Thanksgiving time. “Funny Thing About Love,” an LDS Film Festival selection, is set for its Utah premiere coupled with a Q&A section afterward this Saturday at the Scera Center in Orem.

Fans of the 2004 smash hit, “Napoleon Dynamite,” will be intrigued to see the movie’s star, Jon Heder, headlining the credits for this 2021 comedy.

Brooke White, a former “American Idol” fifth-place finisher who plays Samantha’s best friend, Annie, and is Bellessa’s actual best friend in real life, says working with Heder and spending time speculating about the latest developments in “The Bachelor” house was a riot.

“He’s funny as heck, he’s a good time,” White, of no relation to the film’s director, says of Heder, who found continued success in Hollywood after his role as Napoleon Dynamite became a surprise sensation 17 years ago. “He’s a people person.”

It makes sense to have a collection of funny people in a movie together, after all, the word itself is in the title.

“If you’re gonna put the word ‘Funny’ in the title, you know, you better have some funny actors in the movie or else it’s going to bomb,” the director says.

In addition to Heder, along with Bellessa and White – who are also funny best friends with a growing YouTube channel, The Girls With Glasses, the cast also includes BYU Studio C star Jason Gray, standup comedian Kevan Moezzi, and Pat Finn, who was best friends with legendary late comedy actor Chris Farley.

Not to mention, former University of Utah gymnastics star MyKayla Skinner, who went on to win a silver medal at the Tokyo Olympic Games, also has a small part in the film.

“We gave every character their moments in the movie to just have a sweet moment with one of the leads,” White says of the script. “And that comes through where you just start to root for everybody and then you’ll pick your favorites.”

White says he was inspired to write the movie after watching countless Hallmark holiday movies with his wife, Greta, most of which he didn’t enjoy. His goal was to come up with a movie that was in a similar genre, but also something he could see himself enjoying, along with Greta.

“What do I think is cool? What would I want to watch? And if other people feel the same way, fantastic,” White says. “I don’t really watch much stuff that’s got, you know, immoral content or whatever. So I just write the kind of movie I want to see.”

The clean, family-friendly yet funny movie, can have a huge impact on any movie-watching couple that stumbles on the film, he adds, perhaps a bit tongue-in-cheek.

“I don’t want to understate this, but I feel like we’re saving marriages with this movie,” he says with a hint of dry humor. “Because husbands can watch it with their wives and be happy and not do it begrudgingly.”

“Funny Thing About Love” will be in theaters on Dec. 3 and streaming across all platforms.

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