There’s a 1989 Mormon-genre film most Utah children from the era couldn’t escape. It was called Saturday’s Warrior. Until recently, I hadn’t seen it in at least two-and-a-half decades. My memories of the production were foggy and included only fragments of clips and lines I honestly thought may have just been remnants of some fever dream.
I wondered how hard it would be to find it, and whether I would have to also locate a VCR if ever I wanted to watch it again. I was in luck.
Saturday’s Warrior is on Youtube, and I am here for it.
This article includes a full recap of this exceptional cinematic masterpiece. If you’ve seen the film before, please relive it with me so I don’t have to be alone here. If you haven’t seen it before, well, now you won’t have to.
I pour myself a strong drink and hit play. Sappy music welcomes us to the two-hour musical and a woman singing “Who are these children coming down?” Slow-motion montages of white smiling families flash across the screen during the eternal intro.
Eventually we are taken to outer space, where we are introduced to these love birds:
Julie and poor-man’s Fabio explain this place is heaven and they are waiting to be born on Earth. Poor-man’s Fabio can’t wait to be a baby, but Julie is terrified she’s going to be born ugly and this horn-dog next to her, who is apparently her soulmate, is going to get to Earth and bang all the ladies.
Then they sing.
Through music, poor-man’s Fabio promises to find Julie on Earth, at which point he’ll walk up to her and say, “I’ve seen that smile somewhere before.”
“I’ve heard your voice before,” Julie suggests she’ll respond in this hypothetical Earth conversation.
“Feeeeeelings come so very strong! Like we’ve known each other for. so. loonnng.” the two belt together as I take a shot of Jack Daniels Fireball.
Sunny and Cher are interrupted by a woman with a clipboard who tells poor-man’s Fabio it’s time for him to be born. This woman is like a reverse labor and delivery nurse. She tells poor-man’s Fabio if he doesn’t hurry and stand on a weird birth portal thing he will miss his chance to be born in America and his next opportunity at life will be “in Siberia.”
Just as Julie wipes a tear at her soulmate’s departure her army of soon-to-be Earth siblings all show up to dance with her for a very long time.
The siblings sing about what their lives are going to be like on Earth.
It seems the youngest, Emily, is scared no one will love her on Earth. Big brother Jimmy promises through song he won’t forget Emily and that he’ll be there for her when she’s afraid.
Side note: The actress playing Emily is my second cousin and once at a family reunion when we were both about ten I asked her, in a tone I now recognize as “mean-spirited,” whether she enjoyed being such a celebrity and she told me her agent asked her not to give interviews to the public.
Anyway, after Emily's and Jimmy’s heart-to-heart, the rest of the siblings join in and they all sing about how family will be the thing that gets them through their problems. The song goes on for a full eternity because there’s a lot of time to kill in Mormon heaven.
They dance. They sing. They smile at each other.
It’s honestly a little hard to tell what’s going on after a while because the space heaven fog machine is getting a little out of control.
Jimmy eventually sings a bit of foreshadowing to Emily.
“What’ll you do if there comes a day when I lose my way? What’ll you do?”
“I would stay by you Jimmy. Pray for you Jimmy. If it would help, I’d even die for you Jimmy!” Emily promises in return while simultaneously winning an award for Best Overacting in a film where there is already substantial competition.
Before we get too sappy in heaven, the comic relief shows up. It’s in the form of two goofy middle-aged men playing what are supposed to be 19-year-olds whose entire purpose in coming to Earth is to serve Mormon missions together. They sing a whole song about it.
“We are not the ordinary, fearlessly extraordinary, workin’ righteous Hari Kari (???), in our humble way!” Everyone in heaven loves the EFF out of these guys as they sing their catchy upbeat song.
The birth nurse demands the missionaries stand on the birth portal, threatening to send them to Madagascar instead of America if they don’t hurry.
My personal cousin and close friend Emily is ecstatic to see them go.
We then learn Jimmy, the older brother who sang about losing his way, has a twin sister who speaks in a Disney Princess voice. Her name is Pam.
Pam is sad about leaving heaven even though it looks SO BORING. Seriously. WTF do these people do all day? There isn’t even a TV. Just tons and tons of fog and teens in pastel-colored scrubs like a family in the early 90s getting ready for a photoshoot in a studio with carpeted walls.
Pam demands Jimmy promise that no matter what happens they’ll always be close. Jimmy comes up with an idea: when he and Pam are on Earth they will have a special secret thing they do together. They decide that thing should be this weird incesty habit of putting their hands on each other’s thighs.
Somehow this will keep them emotionally connected?
There’s a lot more singing. Heaven dancers phone it in and do what must be a totally impromptu dance.
Finally, it’s time for Jimmy and Pam to be born. “Jimmy, don’t forget your promissssssssssse,” Emily pleads as Jimmy and Pam stand on the Star Trek portal and are beamed down to Earth.
Fast forward approximately 19 years. We’re on Earth now. Julie, the hot woman who promised her virtue to poor-man’s Fabio in fog heaven is carrying a giant suitcase that belongs to one of the heaven missionaries. She and this missionary are in an airport, waiting for the missionary to take off in service of the Lord.
“Wally,” she sobs in the special sing-songy cadence reserved for junior high theater productions, “how can I ever go on living without youuuuuuuu?!”
It seems Julie has gotten jiggy with Wally, despite her premortal promise to poor-man’s Fabio. Wally is too focused on his eternal destiny—to be a Mormon missionary—to worry about such affairs as love. He resists as Julie desperately clings to his leg.
“All I ask for being the world’s greatest missionary is to know that my girl will be waiting for me when I return in glory,” Wally tells Julie. Then he forces Julie to raise her right hand and swear a fidelity oath to him.
Julie is a little offended by Wally’s demand that she promise she’ll wait for him.“Will I waaaaaiiiit for you!?” she sings.
A number of other women in identical fugly skirts feel similarly affronted by their missionary boyfriends’ worries that their teenage betrotheds might bear the children of another white Mormon boy while the boyfriends are off serving the Lord.
The women perform a number that is sort of like the Handmaid’s Tale version of that scene from Mean Girls where the plastics do “Jingle Bell Rock” for the school talent show.
“Like a burger waits for an order of fries,” the women promise through a handful of almost right analogies about waiting for their men.
Suddenly we cut to the rest of the heaven children who have been born into a musical family. The family is singing on TV in a completely unexplained commercial never again referenced or given the semblance of context. The musical production is led by Pam who we find out is . . . DISABLED.
Yes, it seems Pam was struck with the illness commonly known as Wheelchair. The musical number is all about how everyone in the family has large noses, which they’ve apparently inherited from their father.
“It wouldn’t be so bad if it stayed with our dad but we’ve all got daddy’s nose,” they sing.
Although he does have a little hair on the sides, this dad is still somehow the baldest man I have ever seen. Also, he looks like a character from Guess Who.
But it’s not all fun and games on Earth. Some cool kids who sit in and on cars have seen the television bit and now they’re making fun of Jimmy over it. We instantly know these kids are bad news because they are hot and have great hair.
The OC can’t believe how many siblings Jimmy has. Embarrassed, Jimmy claims his family doesn’t really have that many kids—it’s a TV trick. “We do it with mirrors,” he explains.
“Wasn’t that show sponsored by Planned Parenthood,” one of the edgy teens asks. Another girl jokes about how horny Jimmy’s parents must be. Then one of the cool kids tells Jimmy he’s got a choice to make in this life. He’s got exactly two options for his future: does he want “47 kids or a nice set of wheels?”
Oh boy, Jimmy has a tough and mutually-exclusive decision ahead. The kids tell Jimmy, through white person rap, “there’s only so much to go around” and it’s irresponsible to have any kids at all.
Then they sing about it. “Zero population is the answer my frieeeeeend! Without it, the rest of us are dooooooooomed!!!”
“Who can survive? Who can survive? Not one of us can be aliiiiiive!” the rest of the friends sing under some Chernobyl fallout.
It’s not totally clear what the teens’ ultimate goal is here. It appears they are advocating overpopulation of the Earth is a threat to us all. But their solution seems to be that in order for us to survive we should all cease to exist.
Anyway, poor Jimmy has to deal with these satanic youth who actually think about preservation of natural resources and the fact there are starving children in the world. One of the wicked kids even mentions her worry about the ozone, which is how we know she doesn’t care about eternal families.
Up next we are taken to the home where Jimmy and the heaven children live.
Jimmy has just returned from hanging out with the zero population gang and he’s clearly distraught. Just then Stephanie Tanner opens a can of worms by asking Perm Mom a question.
“In school,” she explains, “our teacher read us a story about a mommy and a daddy who had to give away one of their kids, and I wondered which one of us you would pick.”
Note: these parents can’t even drink, as I’m doing vociferously at this exact moment, as they deal with this crap.
The kids spar, each suggesting which of the children they think ought to go. “This family would shrivel up and die without my sparkling personality around,” one of the Mormon Aryans proclaims.
Then he makes it weird, telling his sister he knows she worships the ground he walks on because he saw her hugging and kissing his pillow one day. Sister Friz shouts that he’s a “liar” and dear God I hope she is telling the truth.
By the way, Perm Mom is younger than half of her children.
Eventually Forehead Dad, who has decided to take this family discussion seriously, suggests they give Pam away. You know, the one with Wheelchair.
The children protest. One of the brothers walks into the room and asks what they’re talking about. “Daddy wants to give PAM away!” one of the girls cries, so melodramatically she was immediately added to the cast of This Is Us.
“Hey, if Pam goes, I go, too,” the brother responds.
It’s agreed. No one is going to give away 20-year-old Pam.
Instead the kids offer up Jimmy because “he’s hardly here anyway.”
“Who cares” Jimmy says, “the answer is just not having any more.”
This controversial declaration about family planning catches the attention of Forehead Dad who just finished saying he’d give away his disabled child.
Jimmy asks his parents if they’re going to have another baby. “We’ve thought about it,” they tell him. EVEN THOUGH THEY HAVE LIKE 19 KIDS AND THEY HAVE TO BE IN THEIR 40s BY THIS POINT AND THEY HAVE TWO CHILDREN WHO ARE IN THEIR 20s.
Up next, Jimmy and Pam are out on the patio together. Pam is very upset with Jimmy’s opinion their parents shouldn’t have more kids.
Jimmy tells Pam he doesn’t understand how she is able to have so much faith. Pam responds that if she had enough faith, she wouldn’t have been diagnosed with Wheelchair, which is exactly how disabilities work.
I want to take a moment to point out this plot point is not presented as a misconception to be overcome. It’s more like, “Yes, Pam is really faithful, but even she doesn’t have perfect faith as we can see since she suffers from Wheelchair.”
Pam sings us a song about why it’s a problem Jimmy wants all the answers to life’s tough questions at once. “Line upon line, precept on precept! That is how He lifts us! That is how He teaches His children!” she sings.
And then! As the song is wrapping up! It happens! They do that weird hand-on-each-other’s-leg thing they made up in fog heaven!
“Why do we always do that?” Pam asks.
This next thing isn’t really relevant to the story but I just wanted you to see this guy’s pants:
Jimmy’s not the only one with problems. Julie feels conflicted right now because she made that chastity pledge to Wally, but she also has the whole inner tiger situation. She wonders if it’s ok for her to hang out with her probably gay friend while Wally is away. Her brothers slut shame her over it for a minute and then she sings a song about the dilemma with her sisters.
Simultaneously, Wally is singing. Of course, he and his mission companion are total slobs, because stereotypes.
There’s a montage where Wally and Julie are writing one other cliché letters. At one point, Julie accidentally writes “Dear John” instead of “Wally.” OH BOY!
Then, out of nowhere, Wally receives a letter wherein Julie says she’s been engaged for “two months” to another man. What is this? Provo’s Most Eligible?
There’s a split screen where the girls sing “Dear John” over and over while the missionaries sing about how you can’t trust women because they’re all lying whores for making their own decisions about who they’ll court. It’s like so adorable.
Up next, the poor heartbroken missionaries are out in a park trying to preach the good word despite the actions of that deceptive harlot, Julie.
They do some weird proselytizing I swear to you involves standing on a bench and making animal sounds?
They’re so busy obsessing over how they’re going to baptize everyone in the park over age 8 that they don’t notice right next to them, sitting on a bench, is . . . wait . . . who’s that!? IT’S JULIE’S HEAVEN SOULMAAAAAAATE!
Poor-man’s Fabio is BACK!
He gets a whole song about how drawings are a metaphor for something or other. I don’t know. It doesn’t matter.
Back at the ranch, Julie is telling her sisters she wants to be a perfect Stepford wife for her soon-to-be: a good cook and housekeeper and opioid addict.
Then Julie sings the same song poor-man’s Fabio just sang in the park.
Julie is inexplicably conflicted. She and poor-man’s Fabio turn into ghosts and touch each other’s hands.
Then Julie probably has sex with Whoopi and makes some pottery.
Things are not so erotic down in the family room. Jimmy is upset with one of the nameless brothers for going through his stuff. He even lightly pushes the brother’s shoulder, prompting the brother’s very professional soccer player reaction. He grabs his stomach and rocks back and forth on the floor.
“You’re a selfish jerk just like everyone says!” the young Donald Trump tells Jimmy.
As Jimmy storms out, Pam VERY awkwardly grabs onto his shirt and silently holds him back for a surprisingly long time.
She can’t do anything else, though, because she was diagnosed with Wheelchair.
The rest of the kids have an over-the-top family meeting re what to do about Jimmy. “He’s our brother!” one of the Children of the Corn reminds us as they contemplate . . . I’m not sure what, exactly.
Meanwhile, back at 90210, the women are now starting to uncomfortably pet Jimmy as they talk to him.
They’re inviting Jimmy to go somewhere. Jimmy is conflicted. “We’re gonna have a hell of a time, Jimmy,” the guy with the hair says.
Side note: When I was a child there was a family in my neighborhood who recorded Saturday’s Warrior onto a VHS tape when it aired on KBYU, but they hit pause for the above line so their copy wouldn’t have the word “hell” in it and one of the children in that family told me my family were sinners because we watched the unedited version.
There’s Mormon, and then there’s edit-Saturday’s-Warrior-for-content Mormon.
Anyway, out of nowhere, there’s another musical number.
I don’t understand the message of this song whatsoever. They are singing about how friends are there for each other and they keep chanting “we can get it together” but it’s not clear what they’re planning to get, exactly. All I know is they are wicked.
Up next, Jimmy’s family throws him the world’s saddest surprise birthday party, which includes his father giving him a congratulatory handshake after singing “For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow.”
Julie has wrapped herself up like a present, which has some uncomfortable implications, but it’s also par for the course with this family.
The kids give Jimmy the crappiest presents of all time, including their stuffed animals, a free shoe shine, a coupon for breakfast in bed, and something about a fixed car. But the main gift is from Pam. Pam makes Jimmy kneel before her as she crowns and knights him with very shitty homemade props.
Jimmy is happy again. The situation seems to have been diffused. But then.
And this truly is a scriptwriting poetic masterpiece.
Jimmy’s tone-deaf parents decide it’s time to give him their present.
Are you sitting down?
You need to be sitting down for this.
It’s the greatest thing I’ve ever seen on film. And I’ve seen “drink your juice Shelby,” like 100 times.
“Jimmy,” Perm Mom says. “We’re going to have a baby.”
Their birthday present for Jimmy is that Perm Mom is knocked up.
After all the zero population business and the ozone and “Daddy wants to give Pam away!” they decide they should tell Jimmy, as his birthday present, they are not done pumping out children.
I fell onto the ground in hysteria for nearly five minutes when this happened.
“You’re gonna keep it!?” Jimmy screams.
“Well maybe next time you’ll just drop a whole litter!” he shouts at his mother.
Dad slaps the HELL out of Jimmy after that grenade.
It’s amazing. I watched it like 12 times.
Jimmy runs out just as completely flat-stomached Perm Mom starts having labor pains or something.
This stomach pain corresponds with Emily, up in fog heaven, trying to climb on the birth portal to hurry and get down there. The nurse tells Emily she can’t go yet.
Then Emily yells non sequiturly “Jimmy! Why did you forget your promisssssssssse!!??”
Up next Jimmy is at a park with the naughty environmentalists. “Oh man. What. A. Party.” one of them says. You can see they have been drinking.
It looks like it’s about to rain, and the kids get up to leave. Jimmy says he’s going to stay behind. “He’s gonna wash away his sins,” the sassy gay says, who also happens to be the only person of color with a single line in the entire film.
Jimmy pulls out a letter he apparently received from Pam at some point. “This may come as a surprise but I’m writing to you from the hospital,” Pam explains.
It seems Pam’s Wheelchair is progressing.
Jimmy finishes reading the letter. He gets up to leave when a man who had been sitting on a bench just across from Jimmy says, “Excuse me, can you hold on just a second? I’m almost finished.”
The camera pans over to reveal the speaker.
Could it be?
It’s poor-man’s Fabioooooooooo!!!
Poor-man’s Fabio is drawing a picture of Jimmy. Jimmy continues to pose as the two talk about Jimmy’s family. In the end, Jimmy does not like the portrait. He says it doesn’t look like him. Poor-man’s Fabio explains he doesn’t draw people the way they are but “the way they could be,” which is actually a pretty impressive way to be very bad at art without people knowing it.
After seeing himself as Disney’s Aladdin, Jimmy decides to call home from a park payphone just as it starts to rain. Dad tells Jimmy that Pam has died. As it turns out, Pam’s case of Wheelchair was terminal.
“Not Pam, not Pam!” Jimmy pleads as he drops to the ground very carefully so as not to hurt his knees.
Pam goes back to fog heaven to be reunited with Emily.
“Why didn’t Jimmy keep his promisssssssse?” Emily asks Pam.
Someone needs to get this kid a hobby. Pam explains Jimmy has forgotten what’s important. “What’s important to me is that I go to our family! Not somewhere elsssssse!” Emily cries.
It’s not clear how Jimmy’s choice in friends has any bearing on whether Emily will be birthed by Jimmy’s mother, but ok.
Jimmy gets his ballad at this point. “Who am I!?” he scream-sings.
Deep into the song Jimmy’s family, friends, and fog heaven homies pop into the background like ghosts, each taking turns singing to him.
The friends go first.
“Hey Flinders! No Flinders! Come on we’ve got to go Flinders! [Mumble mumble] I’m your friend!” they sing.
Then Pam and Emily cut in.
“Jimmy oh Jimmy don’t listen to them. How can they say they’re your friend? If they take you away from your family and home, and leave you alone in the eeeennnnd.”
Then the Earth family.
“Jimmy, we looooove you! That’s all we have to offer! Jimmy! We need youuuuu. Please, don’t turn us awaaaaaaay!”
After the various shoulder angels sing their individual parts, they belt their messages all at once in something of a Mormon “One Day More.”
Then it’s time for Pam’s poorly-attended funeral.
Ill-dressed for the occasion, Jimmy shows up and makes it all about him. The family embraces their prodigal son and completely forgets about that dumb wheelchair girl.
Meanwhile, our hilarious Mormon missionaries are still out preaching the good word. The huskier companion makes several self-deprecating jokes about his weight and inability to function considering all the fasting he’s done. It’s hilarious, because he’s fat. Fat people are funny.
Just as they lament they can’t seem to find anyone to baptize, they notice someone. A man who has been in the park quite a lot lately.
Who’s sitting over there on that bench?
Could it be?!
It’s POOR-MAN’S FABIOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!
Poor-man’s Fabio immediately reads the entire Book of Mormon in the park and he’s obviously overtaken by the truth he’s been craving ever since he became an off-brand Disney portrait artist.
The missionaries use the fat companion’s stomach as a projection screen during one lesson. It’s hilarious! BECAUSE HE’S SO FAT.
They make poor-man’s Fabio stomp on his cigarettes because sin.
Just wait until these missionaries get hold of the kids who were drinking Coke in this same park earlier.
Poor-man’s Fabio gets all kinds of baptized. The missionaries reprise their fog heaven song, “In Our Humble Way,” because this film is no longer satisfied with just torturing me with new material.
Back at the house Julie is sobbing because she doesn’t want to get married to her fiancé anymore. “But Julie,” Perm Mom helpfully offers, “the wedding is in three days.”
Perm Mom and Forehead Dad want Julie OUT OF THE HOUSE.
Julie doesn’t marry her gay best friend. Instead she shows up at the airport in a black t-shirt and denim dress she borrowed from 1989 Martha Stewart to greet Wally the missionary, who is returning home.
Wally steps off the plane. He greets Julie. But then he says he has a surprise. He brought a friend home from his mission.
You won’t believe it.
Who’s that getting off the plane?
Could it be?!
Julie and Fabio immediately fall in love. They can tell they know each other “from somewhere.”
Their hands immediately come together in their premortal formation while Wally pleads for Julie not to immediately run off with this airport stranger to whom she has not yet spoken a single word.
They sing their song from fog heaven again. “Feeeeeeelings come so very strong like we’ve knoooooown each other for. so. loooooong.”
We are next taken to heaven where reverse labor and delivery nurse says it’s almost time for Emily to be born. Emily says several more things about Jimmy keeping his “promissssssssssssssssssssssssssssse.”
Emily is sent to live among the public where she won’t give interviews about her career.
Down on Earth, Perm Mom is either going into labor or just finished a Number 12 from Beto’s.
Perm Mom suddenly announces it’s time to have the baby and there’s absolutely no time to go to the hospital. They decide to deliver the baby on the family couch, because I guess they really want to get a new family couch. They don’t even put a towel down, let alone 20.
The power goes out and we can’t really see anything, which is good, because privacy.
Two seconds later, the baby comes out. The family gathers around little Emily, who if you could interpret baby screams, is probably like “WHAT ABOUT THE EFFING PROMISSSSSE JIMMY WHAT ABOUT THAT PROMISSSSSSSSSSSSE I WILL MURDER YOU IF YOU BREAK. THAT. GD. PROMISSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSE.”
Never promise that little shit, anything.
I can say that because we’re family.
Jimmy holds the baby for a very long time.
Then Jimmy holds up a sword for unknown reasons while the credits roll.
Finally, the film is dedicated.
As I experience liver failure.
(Design: Josh Fowlke) (Editor: Rachel Swan)