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Time Changer

Religious 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 meeting 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.

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