APRIL MOVIE THON 2: Time Changer (2002)

April 9: Easter Sunday – You don’t have to believe to watch and share a religious movie.

Time Changer is a movie that will fool you.

It doesn’t seem like it’s going to be an ultra religious movie. After all, it has a time travel concept, which seems against the Bible. It has a pretty recognizable cast, such as Hal Linden, Gavin MacLeod, Paul Rodriguez, Richard Riehle and Jennifer O’Neill.

Yes, Jennifer O’Neill from Fulci’s The Psychic.

I’ll get to her soon enough.

Bible professor Russell Carlisle (D. David Morin) shares his new book, The Changing Times, with the leaders of the Grace Bible Seminary. The big idea is that you can have good morals without Jesus Christ. Everyone — and by everyone, I mean Barney Miller and Richard Riehle — agree this is a good thing. The only person who doesn’t is Dr. Norris Anderson (Gavin MacLeod), who has a time machine that he plans on using to show Carlisle the error of his ways.

A hundred years in the future, Carlisle is frightened by everything: cars, telephones, laundromats, Paul Rodriguez, baseball, children watching unmarried men and women kiss, tipping people who carry your luggage — even though tipping was invented in the middle ages in Europe, when servants would receive extra pay for good service from their masters and wealthy Americans learned of it when they started traveling to Europe in the mid 1800s — so, you know, pretty much everything. Taking the Lord’s name in vain in a movie — he’s not afraid of the actual movie, like how people ran away from the theater in France when L’Arrivée d’un train en gare de La Ciota played there in urban legend — is enough to stun him into gibberish speech.

Up until now, Carlisle is played as a comedy character, happily befuddled by the strangeness of our modern times. Yet things start to get to him, like divorce and women’s clothes on a mannequin, which causes him to complain to an employee, who thinks that our bearish religious learned man wants to wear those clothes himself.

Again, this is all played for laughs.

Except for when he goes to the school of someone he meets in church and lectures the class on how science works and drops this on them: “Remember, students, if any scientific record contradicts the Scriptures, it is the scientific finding that is in error. The Scriptures are never wrong.”*

This scene is so strange because up until now, we’ve been shown that Carlisle is a well-meaning moron. One of those so smart they’re kind of idiotic movie people who invent Flubber but can’t make it to any appointment on time. But now, are we to empathize with him when his religion is kept out of school? Or are we to take dialogue like “God’s Holy Word is so trustworthy, it is amazing how it is recorded scientific fact hundred of years before scientists ever discovered them, and has proven accurate one hundred percent of the time.”

So…is he a goofball?

Not anymore, as he goes to meet Mrs. Bain, the librarian Dr. Anderson told him to check in with. And yes, that’s Jennifer O’Neill. And before you can hear seven notes in black, she brings this movie to sheer right wing persecution mania just when you thought you were watching a different movie, telling him that “our nation is no longer built on the biblical principles set forth by our forefathers,” even though in the Treaty of Tripoli, written in 1797 and sent to the Senate by John Adams, states “the government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion.” Yet more importantly, while many of the morals of the U.S. are indeed based on Christian principles, there is no demand to practice Christianity or any other religion. The First Amendment to the Constitution says that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” People are free to believe whatever they wish; that’s far from being expressly established on biblical principles.

She goes on to say that “We’ve lost prayer in school since the Supreme Court decision in 1962.” This is a myth. Yes, official, state-sponsored and mandated prayers led by school officials aren’t allowed, but moments of silence and private prayers are always allowed. Trust me. Whenever there’s a test someone didn’t study for, there are prayers.

But man, when it gets to “secular entertainment is one of the biggest tools Satan uses to mislead people” and that Hollywood started in the 1930s — wrong, In Old California was the first movie shot in Hollywood in 1910 — and movies started with a code of ethics — wrong: “The Hays Code was this self-imposed industry set of guidelines for all the motion pictures that were released between 1934 and 1968,” according to Australian Centre for the Moving Image curator Chelsey O’Brien — and now, all of the failings of morals can be attributed to movies.

How did we switch so suddenly?

Get this: the movie goes back to wacky hijinks right after that.

Well, first our hero goes to the Church and tells everyone they are in the End Times, then he gives a Bible to Paul Rodriguez, who yes, was actually in this movie and remember when AKA Pablo was going to be this huge hit after all that hype and lasted six episodes? Man, I watched too much Entertainment Tonight as a child. Then, the two guys at the church who have always been weirded out by him chase him into an alley and he goes back to his own time, which they think is The Rapture.

At the end of it all, Carlisle decides to change his book and even shows a young boy who he yelled at in the beginning the error of his ways, gifting him some marbles and a lesson about Jesus.

But it’s not over.

No, Captain Stuebing decides to send a Bible through his time machine to find out when the world ends. Well, it could very well be 2050, the way this makes you see things.

Director and writer Rich Christiano is still making movies. And you know, I like a lot of this film. I just feel like it goes so all over the place in its narrative and then outright has moments where you know the truth against the words on screen that you start to doubt everything and man, faith is hard. Can you be moral and good without belief? I’m not sure, I’m no theologian. This movie says there’s no way.

It would be easy to just shoot fish in a barrel and make fun of this film — I mean, I did fire off plenty of ammo — but I still enjoyed the time I spent watching it, even though the Hollywood scene made me scream at my television. Then again, I own an uncut version of Emanuelle In America, so I am in no way to be listened to.

*Credit to Heathen Critique for writing down much of this movie’s dialogue.

You can watch this on Tubi.

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