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everybody loves batratspidercrab

Back in ancient days of yore, we watched a film for gizelnort's birthday, and promised a review when we were more sober. That I'm only now getting around to delivering the review implies that my life has been a lot more fun than it really has been, but the sad truth is that I've simply procrastinated horribly in writing up Time Changer.

So. A time-travel movie from fundamentalist Christians.

Honestly, "Christian entertainment" doesn't have to be an oxymoron. Let's take stock:

• Holy book bursting at the seams with stories of passion and betrayal, enough dark deeds and slaughter to thrill any lover of gore and enough steamy forbidden passion to go all the way to R and beyond? Check.

• Tangled history of martyrs and heretics, holy wars and unholy politics? Check.

• Inspiration for much of western art and architecture? Check. Vibrant canon of Christian novels, from Pilgrim's Progress to The Lion,the Witch, and the Wardrobe to The Shack, many of which encompass a Christian worldview and even encourage Christian values without sacrificing story and without descending into preaching? Check.

But when it comes to movies, kittens, "Christian entertainment" is all too often an oxymoron, and this movie is an exemplar of the problem.

It wasn't for lack of throwing money at the production. Time Changer was produced by religious television network TBN, and features The Love Boat's Gavin MacLeod as the Grace Bible College professor with a time-travel machine in his barn, Barney Miller's Hal Linden as the Dean of the Bible College, and comedian Paul Rodriguez as Eddie the laundromat owner. Sets and costuming were lush, and it's clear they had a special effects budget. None of it, however, is enough to save the movie from feeling like you've just been shouted at by a second-rate street preacher for the last 95 minutes.

In 1890, Russell Carlisle is a professor at Grace Bible College -- a bucolic campus, where happy modestly-clad women aren't seen, much less heard, outside of their happy homes, happy extremely white children play on the lawns, and everyone happily references Jesus in every other sentence they utter. Dr. Carlisle has just written a book. All he needs is for the rest of the faculty to unanimously approve having it published under the imprint of Grace Bible College -- an approval which is enthusiastically given by all but Captain StubingDoctor Anderson.

When confronted by Carlisle, Anderson explains he has a problem with a section in which Carlisle advocates engaging in discussions with non-believers without constantly slamming them in the head with a Jesus two-by-four. This sets a dangerous precedent, says Anderson, because there can be no reason to behave morally without a belief in Jesus. You can't ever shut up about The Jesus! To prove just how damaging this will be to our society, Anderson uses the solar-powered time machine in his barn, which his father built using Biblical principles, to send Carlisle to the modern day. Hilarity ensues.

Carlisle bumbles around the modern urban landscape, confused by traffic and appalled by the flagrant immorality around him -- best exemplified in the little girl who steals his hot dog because no one has ever explained to her that stealing is wrong because Jesus said so. He is invited to speak to schoolchildren at a public school, and is appalled when he is thrown out of the classroom for merely explaining to them that all true science is in accordance with the Bible, as the Bible is the unquestionable source of all knowledge.

I had some sympathy with Carlisle when he went running out of a movie showing demanding that the manager "Stop the film!" (I say the same thing to badmovie all the time), but Carlisle was only appalled by the use of the Lord's name in vain (as opposed to being on the verge of gouging his eyes out.) Wimp

Carlisle finds the modern-day Christians little better than the unbelievers, as he and the movie audience sit through a lengthy church service. He apparently decides to punish them by joining in the hymn singing very loudly and with very little sense of pitch. And just in case you hadn't yet had your fill of preaching, he himself stands up to lecture the faithful at length about how he is convinced that these days are the prophesied End Times shortly before he is due to return to his own time. When he is followed out of the church by two men who have (correctly) deduced that there's something strange about him and that he is not who he claims to be, Carlisle decides to get them to let go of him by claiming he is a messenger from God. He is then returned to his time in a flash of light, causing one man to turn to the other and say, "I think we just missed the Rapture."

Carlisle has become convinced of Anderson's thesis that society will have degenerated because it tried to decouple morality from Jesus because a modern-day librarian said so. He promptly destroys his book upon returning to his time. This isn't much of a "Time-Changer," despite the title, because as the movie ends, we see Anderson trying to pin down the date of the Apocalypse by sending a Bible into 2040... which fails. Then 2035.... 2030... 2025...

The actor apparently decided that the way to show the speech patterns and body language of 1890 was to channel Brent Spiner's portrayal of Data the android in Star Trek: The Next Generation. His movements are jerky, his speech is stilted, and he is apparently incapable of understanding when he is being conned or when someone is using sarcasm. Apparently either contractions hadn't been invented in 1890, or Grace Bible College didn't approve of them, because nary a one escapes his lips. It gets grating, kittens, but not as grating as the constant preaching and derision towards anyone who doesn't hold fundamentalist Christian beliefs.

Perhaps this movie succeeds as preaching to the choir, but the rest of us will find the bad acting and heavy-handed religious propaganda a little too much to take.


OMG! I watched this with you. I had purged it from my memory but now it's back...the Captain from the Love Boat, the guy just missing the rapture...oh, oh, it's all back...all back....