The Fighting Preacher (2019)

David McConnell, Charley Boon, Shawn Stevens, Barta Heiner,
The Fighting Preacher is a movie starring David McConnell, Charley Boon, and Kenna Dawn. When Willard and Rebecca Bean are called on a mission to a town that's hostile towards them, they must choose whether to fight for their right...
  • 5.9 /10.0 IMDB Rating:
  • DatePublished:
  • 2018-10-11 Added:
  • Writer:
  • T.C. Christensen, Director:
  • Ron Tanner, Producer:
4 / 10


In his autobiography, Willard Bean wrote: "When people tell my story they usually get it about half right." This movie is an example of that; the screenwriter got it about half right. The sad thing is the parts he got wrong were deliberately wrong because the writer thought it would make a better story. The real, accurate story would have made a much better movie. Sadder still is that in interviews the writer presented his altered version as true and accurate.Visually this movie is beautiful. Mr. Christensen is one of the best cinematopraphers working today. David McConnell does a very good job portraying Willard Bean, but unfortunately, he received some bad direction which made some of his scenes silly and eye-rolling.If you like "Mormon movies", you'll love this one. It has some touching moments and some good lessons, and even a thinly disguised Three Nephites Story (which is so poorly put together it leaves the audience wondering what just happened). One of the ways the writer changed the true story was to create an a-little-child-shall-lead-them storyline. This is always good for a few tears whether it's true or not. Adding this storyline feels like an insult to Willard Bean's life and his true character, but it's a guaranteed Kleenex moment in any "Mormon movie".Visually, I would give this movie 8 out of 10 stars. Unfortunately, Mr Christensen insists on being a one-man band who writes, directs, shoots and produces and I can't give the final product more than 4 out of 10 stars. Had this been a team effort with a good writer who stuck to the true story, and good director working with one of the industries great cinematographers, this could have been an outstanding movie.One final note. Before you lump me in the category of Mormon hater, or disgruntled Latter-day Saint with a chip on his shoulder, I am neither of these. I am a devout Latter-day Saint with no ax to grind. I am simply giving an honest assessment of the movie.

9 / 10

An inspiring film that reminds us to simply be kind and show respect to everyone

Remember films presents a family-friendly movie based on the true story of Williard & Rebecca Bean who served a 24-year mission in Palmyra, New York. The movie takes place 80 years after the "Mormons" living there had fled for their lives due to persecution. The leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints asked the Beans to serve a very unique mission there to heal old wounds and attempt to purchase the Hill Cumorah, a site very sacred to members of the church.

I watched this movie soon after I had just taken a trip to Palmyra for the first time a couple of weeks ago, so it was especially meaningful and touching to me. Today, the church hosts an outdoor pageant on the Hill Cumorah for thousands of audience members in the summertime. The message of the pageant and this movie is that Jesus Christ is the redeemer of the world and to love others as He taught us.

Directed by T.C. Christensen, the film is geared toward current members of the church, yet offers a universal message of love and faith that everyone can enjoy. He calls this movie "the greatest story in church history that you've never heard of." I hadn't! It was fascinating to learn more about the miracles that occurred at the Smith home. The movie also attempts to point out that Mormons do not worship Joseph Smith but strive to be true followers of Jesus Christ.

TIPS FOR PARENTS:There is a cute scene when a Palmyra man yells profanities at Mr. Bean but a cow nearby moos to bleep out the bad words.Some fighting in and out of the boxing ringBullyingName-calling

THEMES:Pure loveService to others"Maybe sometimes the best way to fight is with love." - Rebecca Bean (Cassidy Hubert)"Warm friendship, like the setting sun shines light on everyone." - q saying on the wall that someone had cross-stiched as a decoration.Rebecca quotes a scripture in the Book of Mormon (Jacob 7:26) that says, "the time passed away with us, and also our lives passed away like as it were unto us a dream." The older I get, the more I can definitely relate to that sentiment. Life sure flies by.Just keep swinging.Respect for others, even if they have different beliefs.


David McConnell plays Willard Bean, the fighting preacher. He's certainly likable and carries the film very well. I wanted to make him a pie. He actually broke a rib in one of the boxing scenes.David's chemistry with Cassidy Hubert (who plays his wife) is believable. She is lovely and seemed noticeably younger than him, but that's how it was in real life too.

Scarlett Hazen plays their daughter Palmyra and is totally adorable. She did a fantastic job and I hope to see her in more films. It's both strange and sweet that they named their daughter Palmyra. She takes some missionaries to the Sacred Grove. This is a picture I took of it when I was recently there! It's beautiful, peaceful, and compels you to look up to heaven.

I loved learning about some of the miracles that occurred at the Smith house during that time.Director T. C. Christensen has often told epic stories of faith amidst challenges. In this movie, he dives inward into the soul of a man and his spiritual journey to connect with his fellow man and God.True facts, photos, and video clips are shown at the end of the movie. I always love that.Members of the Latter-day Saint church will get a kick out of seeing a young Gordon B. Hinckley as a missionary. He later became the beloved 15th president of the church.Some will say that the movie is saccharine sweet, but many parents will be thrilled to find a family-friendly film that is uplifting and reminds us to be kind to others.


Some of the dialogue is very clunky.If you're not a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, you won't quite understand the significance of several things that happen in the film. It's helpful to know a little bit about "Mormon" history before watching the movie.Did it really take the Beans 6 years to figure out that they should just love and serve their neighbors?Not all of the humor works.Surprisingly, the movie was filmed in Utah! These are some pictures I took of the real Smith house in Palmyra on my recent trip.

You can read the rest of my movie review and see photos of the real Smith house in Palmyra that I took when I visited there 2 weeks ago at Movie Review Mom!

9 / 10


Review Title:"the Fighting Preacher Delivers a Knockout and Tugs at The Heart."

Review Ranking: 9 Stars out Of 10 (using Im Db Ranking Scale)

REVIEW CONTENT:I attended the premiere of THE FIGHTING PREACHER, a motion picture by Utah Writer/Director T.C. Christensen, on July 17, 2019, at the Jordan Commons Megaplex Theater Complex in Sandy, Utah. Attendees comprised of Writer/Director/Cinematographer, cast, crew, film editor, producers, Utah Film Commission representatives, production/industry associates, family and relatives, and other guests. In preparation, I did a bit of research and studied the promotional information regarding the subject of the film. I was interested and eager to see how the historical story of Willard Bean (a.k.a. "The Fighting Preacher") and his wife, Rebecca Bean, would be told.

The film takes the audience on a journey back to a time in our nation when religious prejudice was a common finding, especially for a faith that was uncommon to the majority of any community. And when such faith also had the accompaniment of historical discord, acceptance would be a monumental feat. Willard and Rebecca Bean found this to be the case when attempting to set up residence in Palmyra, New York in 1915. As requested by the leaders of the Latter-Day Saint Church, the Beans accepted a unique missionary assignment. They were called to become residents and caretakers of the property known as the Joseph Smith family farm located in Palmyra, New York, and to preach the Gospel. They were also called to establish a community relationship in Palmyra, and help make arrangements for the purchase of Church-related historic properties in the area. Any of those areas of assignment would have been a challenge, but the combination was a daunting feat, indeed.

The Beans were unwelcomed. They were emotionally tormented and insulted to the extreme. Numerous attempts were made by the community members to defame the Church and make life misery of intolerable degree for the Bean family. When Willard and Rebecca first arrive, they are newlyweds of less than one year, so you can imagine what an obstacle this level of resistance presented for the young couple. The fact that they chose to remain under such circumstances showed their character, grit, and commitment to the calling that their Church leaders had extended to them. The Beans were the first members of their Church to reside in Palmyra in eighty-four years. A welcome was long overdue, but the Beans surely didn't receive one. As one watches the film, the audience can't help but feel empathy for the Beans and their unrelenting negative reception. There's an occasional affirmative acceptance, but only rarely, and when it occurs, the Beans feel as though it's a blessing from heaven. The audience can't help but feel the same way whenever the Beans achieve any victory during their earliest years in Palmyra. It was particularly enjoyable to see this couple grow in their love and devotion to one another as well.

The Beans attempted through various means to make friends and contribute to the community, but a deaf ear, unkind actions, and vicious remarks were often the response received. Finally, Willard, with the encouragement of his wife, takes matters into his own hands to defend himself, his family, and the purpose of their residential mission. The community soon learns with whom they had been dealing. You see, at one time, Willard Bean held the title of the middle-weight champion of the United States. Willard had to call upon those boxing skills at times to defend himself and his family because of the enraged sentiments of the abundant number of Mormon haters. As a result of resorting to using those boxing skills while in the capacity of being a church representative, he was often called "The Fighting Parson," to which the film adapted the title to be "The Fighting Preacher." The boxing scenes in the movie, both the impromptu occasions as well as those planned for public exhibition, show Willard Bean's boxing to be an asset to meeting the challenges of his church assignment. The portrayal of gratuitous graphic violence is absent. However, the film successfully shows Bean's sportsmanship, athletic ability, and the defeat of his challengers, albeit supported by the historical record.

While some residents responded through their defeat in the boxing arena with Willard, others responded with continued contention. The Beans then implemented a more robust effort on their part to provide community and individual service and compassion without any expectation of reciprocation. The initiative was tedious and sustained over time, resulting in gradual acceptance and a feeling of belonging. Finally, after years of continued efforts, the Beans were looked upon as respected community members, and they took an active role in many service organizations in their community. Their children, likewise, received the benefit of enduring their trials. What began as a Church assignment of five years or more, ended up as twenty-five years. Their journey began as being rejected and tormented, to becoming endeared and honored by the community.

The film's cinematography is exceptional. Attention is given to close detail of subject and expression, as well as an expansive panoramic view. Such cinematography has become a trademark of T.C. Christensen and audiences look forward to him delivering it in each of his films. I commend the casting director; each of the actors provides solid performance with skill, consistency, and sensitivity. I didn't detect any weakness in the acting whatsoever. Even the casting of the extras presented a colorful collection of characters of unique expression and appearance, adding to the entertaining visual quality of the film. The technical components of the film are aesthetically represented and pleasing. The musical score is complementary to the period and captivates the audience. The viewing audience or seasoned critic would find it difficult, if not impossible, to point to any legitimate flaw in these aspects of the film.

Similar to other historically influenced films written/directed by T.C. Christensen ("The Cokeville Miracle," " Ephraim's Rescue," " 17 Miracles") attention to biographical detail and historical accuracy is abundant throughout the film, excepting minor variance of artistic license. Filmed on location in New York and Utah, the cinematography takes good advantage of the topography of the land. Clothing and architecture of the period are well represented. Even the interior of the old schoolhouse where a good number of scenes take place with the Bean's young daughter makes the audience feel transported in time. After the film, alongside the credits, numerous historical photos and informational facts about Willard and Rebecca Bean and their family are illustrated. My eyes were teary before then, but with the culmination of the archival and photographic feast, my cheeks could not remain dry.

THE FIGHTING PREACHER is a noteworthy filmmaking accomplishment. T.C. Christensen has written and directed an exceptional film worthy of numerous awards. He's a well-researched visionary filmmaker, one of the most talented filmmakers of this generation, and he consistently delivers quality films to appreciative audiences. He shows the audience the truth and invites them to receive a valuable message. He uses the highest caliber of skill in storytelling through his screenwriting, directing, and cinematography. This triple combination of expertise is unique among industry professionals. When other filmmakers choose to work with fiction, he tells a true story of historical significance, worthy of the audience's time, and one that can inspire the human spirit. The running time of the film is not adequate to tell the entire story of Willard and Rebecca Bean, but the portions depicted in this film portray the significant lives that this couple lived. In his final remarks to the audience attending the premiere, T.C. Christensen said, "My hope is that this film will go out and inspire others to be kinder to one another." That takes courage and faith. That's what Willard and Rebecca Bean had. That's what T.C. Christensen has.

10 / 10


In the realm of independent filmmakers telling inspiring true stories of people of faith meeting challenges there is no one more impressive than T.C. Christensen. T.C. is a story teller who uses his talents as a writer, cinematographer and director to bring to life tales of ordinary people who are called upon to do extraordinary things -- and with faith in God accomplish seemly impossible challenges.

THE FIGHTING PREACHER unfolds the amazing story of Willard Been and his wife Rebecca who in 1905 are called upon to be caretakers for their Church of sacred property that had been abandoned when the members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints were forced to flee due the hatred of their neighbors. What begins as a 3 year calling transforms into a 25 year span that changes their lives and those who still carrying on their dislike for "Mormons".

Not only has T.C. skillfully condensed a 25 year story into a fascinating film that is beautifully photographed and skillfully edited (by son Tanner) but has discovered two wonderful performers new to the screen. David McConnell as Willard and Cassidy Hubert as his wife Rebecca bring to life these two remarkable people. Scarlett Hazen who was so good in T.C.'s LOVE, KENNEDY shines in the role of their daughter Palmyra.

THE FIGHTING PREACHER is a film that I am proud to recommend to others and one that I will return to the theatre to see again. I look forward to its future release on Blu-ray to add to my revered collection of T.C. films: 17 MIRACLES, EPHRAIM'S RESUCE, THE COKEVILLE MIRACLE and LOVE, KENNEDY. These are films that I actually rewatch from time to time.

1 / 10

Reviews written by Mormons and the film

Nothing against Mormons but what a awful film bad acting bad filmmaking. If done right this film could have been funny and uplifting if they had better actors better director and bigger budget