films often receive flak for featuring hammy actors, overly preachy
themes, and silly stories which only serve to promote those themes.
More often than not these criticisms are deserved, as evidenced by such
painfully boring films as the Left Behind series, but the religious market is growing nonetheless. Mel Gibson proved audiences would flock to a film like The Passion of the Christ, and now almost any filmmaker can get their religious product into motion.
The movie we’ll be looking at today is Rich Christiano’s Time Changer, not to be confused with the altogether different Time Chasers.
It begins in the year 1890, where everything is oddly clean and people
walk around in outfits straight from the Period section of the costume
department. Two boys are playing marbles before they are called inside
by their mother. Another boy, skulking sneakily behind a plant, swipes
some of the marbles and runs, only to slam into our main character.
Meet Russell Carlisle, a Bible professor played by the woefully
untalented D. David Morin. With his powerfully long cheeks and trimmed
beard, he’s easily the dopiest guy Christiano could have picked to star
in his film. Carlisle scolds the boy for stealing but is rebuffed when
the child runs away. I’d run away too if some weird animatronic man was
trying to teach me values. This is an important scene, believe it or
not, so keep it saved in yours melons for later.
We cut to the Grace Bible Seminary, a happening place where Carlisle is
discussing his new book, The Changing Times, with a group of stodgy
looking gents. They have been asked by Carlisle’s publisher to endorse
the book, and they are just about to come to an agreement when one of
their colleagues, Dr. Norris Anderson, arrives with an objection. It
seems one of the book’s main arguments is that the Lord’s teachings
should be taught universally so as to benefit all of society. Dr.
Norris pleads with Carlisle to meet with him privately so he can show
him why this argument is “deadly.”
The next twenty some-odd minutes are quite possibly the most boring and
repetitive part of the film. Scene after scene we are forced to watch
Dr. Norris ask Carlisle to meet with him at his house. Carlisle refuses
and then meets with one of the other board members to discuss the
endorsement. You see, unless the board votes unanimously to endorse the
book, no decision can be made. So Carlisle meets with the Dean of the
Seminary, which leads to no solution. He talks to his wife, which leads
to no solution.
Finally Carlisle goes to Norris’ house, where it is revealed that
Norris’ father built a time machine. Norris claims he has traveled 100
years into the future, where he has seen the effects of Carlisle’s
desire to separate the Lord from his teachings. You would think this
would be the point where Carlisle himself travels through time…but no.
He just says, “Time travel is impossible!” about thirty times and
leaves. Then we have to watch him talk to Norris about another
meet at his house, then another scene with a professor, then another
scene with the Dean, and another scene with his wife before he FINALLY
gets into the freaking machine. Holy Buddha on a stick…
Of course, time travel is possible, and Carlisle winds up in the 21st
century. We know this because earlier the camera zoomed in on a
newspaper from 1890 and in this scene Carlisle picks up a newspaper
with the present date. Yeah, that cliché hasn’t gotten stale, has it
Christiano? What comes next are a bunch of interrelated scenes in which
our dopey protagonist is confronted by various items of our modern
world. “Remote? Digital? Radio? Hot dog? Baseball?” It gets old real
quick, trust me. One or two jokes like this would have been fine, but
this movie seems to have a never ending supply.
While visiting our time Carlisle meets Eddie, a comic relief Spaniard
played by none other than Paul Rodriguez, Michelle, a Christian
librarian who used to work in the film industry (right), and what
passes for our villains: Tom and Rex. These characters are always
around each other, leading me to think that while they’re married they
are more than likely gay. Seriously, if you watch this movie you won’t
help but notice how close they stand next to one another. Aside from my
conspiracy theory, this is a really lame excuse for an evil duo. Their
only motivation is that they think Carlisle is lying about his
identity, but at no point did I actually feel like they were a threat.
Time Changer has a lot of problems, one of which is its cast of
almost entirely wooden actors. Only Rodriguez walks away unscathed,
even though he does have to deliver a lot of “ethnic” dialogue. Another
big gripe I have is with the director’s message, which states we cannot
have our own set of morals without the Lord’s name to back up our
beliefs. “When we credit Shakespeare, we always say, ‘Shakespeare
said,’” states Dr. Norris during one of his early speeches. So, in
essence, Carlisle could not have just told the little boy from the
opener it was wrong to steal. He had to go even further and tell him Jesus said it was wrong to steal. Sheesh.
There’s also the matter of how Carlisle’s character regards science.
Keep in mind that his profession is a Bible professor in the field of
science. During one scene which takes place in his classroom, Carlisle
tells his students that when a scientist conducts an experiment, he
should make sure it coincides with the findings of the Scriptures. “The
Scriptures are always right, students,” he says, going on to joke about
how only a good scientist would go along with the Bible. It’s a very
odd message to just throw into an already preachy film, and it was more
than a little insulting from my perspective.
One saving grace, though, is the montage of Carlisle exploring the
modern day world set to a truly hilarious techno/funk/stock sound
effects music track. I have no idea where the filmmakers got this
music, but it had me laughing instantly. You know you’re being treated
to something fantastic when you see people talking on cell phones and
the music actually includes dial tone beeps at that exact moment. So if
you’re looking for an easily skewered movie with some funny bits
peppered here and there, do yourself a favor and rent Time Changer.