Turlock front and center in new film “Christian Mingle”

Christian Mingle The Movie

Turns out, Turlock was ready for its closeup.

The city features prominently in the new faith-based romantic comedy “Christian Mingle,” opening today in theaters nationally and locally. The project attracted a lot of attention in the area when its writer and director, former “L.A. Law” and “Psych” star Corbin Bernsen, brought his camera crews into town.

More than 1,200 lined up for the chance to be extras, and curious onlookers waited outside in the cold to catch a glimpse of the movie’s star, “Mean Girls” and “Party of Five” actress Lacey Chabert.

The finished product should make many in the area quite happy. Not only did Bernsen use more than 200 local residents as extras, walk-ons and cameos, Turlock is front and center (albeit pretending to be a hip bohemian neighborhood in a big city) throughout the 90-minute feature.

Those who come for the plot instead of to see if they made it onto the screen will find a pretty straightforward romantic comedy with a twist. Instead of just looking for him, this heroine is looking for Him (with a capital H).

Chabert stars as Gwyneth Hayden, a successful advertising executive who at age 30 is single and not loving it. She bikes to work, lives in an apartment above a very familiar clock shop (that’s Joe’s Clock & Watch Repair in Turlock), and has a boss who wears a captain’s hat every day.

So one night, fueled by late-night infomercial blitzes, she decides to sign onto the dating site ChristianMingle.com. One little problem: While she is plenty ready to mingle, she isn’t exactly Christian. Naturally, she meets the perfect guy – a guy who is prone to saying “gosh” and “spunk” unironically like a Boy Scout who never hit puberty.

“The L.A. Complex” actor Jonathan Patrick Moore plays the appropriately named Paul Wood, because he’s a little stiff and square.

They hit it off splendidly, though, and all around Turlock – from Lisa’s Cookie Jar to Sushi Cuisine and Main Street Footers. But then there’s that problem of Gwyneth’s lack of faith.

The film is the fifth release from Bernsen’s Christian production company, Home Theater Films. It’s the actor-turned-writer-director’s first stab at a romantic comedy. The pacing is brisk in the beginning, with many of the touchstones of the genre: the disastrous blind date, the concerned married girlfriends, the wise and somewhat sassy co-worker.

Chabert’s effortless touch as a comedic actress shines through particularly well in the first half of the film, which contains some genuine laughs.

But then as Gwyneth’s true beliefs are questioned, the movie takes a more introspective tone. This part probably will be a slog for the nonreligious viewers. Still, the movie’s message of finding one’s own path to God will no doubt be one many can relate to.

The movie also is packed with a host of “Hey, I know that guy” actors. The fired choir teacher from “Glee,” Stephen Tobolowsky, is Gwyneth’s boss. J. Peterman from “Seinfeld,” John O’Hurley, is her agency’s newest client. The officer candidate who committed suicide in “An Officer and a Gentleman,” David Keith, is Paul’s poppa. Instantly identifiable “Falcon Crest” star Morgan Fairchild and Bernsen also have small roles.

For locals who worked on the movie, either in front of or behind the cameras, be sure to stick around through the credits as a long list of Turlock actors and production crew members get thanked on screen.

While “Christian Mingle” has aspirations for a higher calling, it ultimately follows a pretty conventional rom-com formula. Meet cute, face obstacle, overcome on road to happy ending – or, in this case, salvation.