DTV Hell: The Time Changer (text review)

First, a disclaimer. The content and opinions of this blog or any of my reviews do not necessarily reflect those of any of the websites which host them. With that out of the way, time for a terrible Christian movie.

While sitting bored at my third-shift job on weekends a couple years back, I saw an advertisement on Trinity Broadcasting for what looked like a strangely interesting Christian movie. The film was called The Time Changer, and featured a bible seminary professor traveling though time to, I could only assume, bring forth the return of Cthulhu to wipe all life from our insignificant speck of a planet. Well, actually, that would have been a much more interesting film, but instead we got a flawed pile of something that actually makes me more likely to hate God than to follow his orders.

The movie starts off simple enough. Directed by Rich Christiano… Yes, I imagine you’d have to be a Rich Christiano to finance this garbage. From Five and Two pictures. Kinda a bad reference, since Yeshua took five loaves and two fish to feed hundreds, and you took so much more and turned it into something I would bet less than 100 non-Christians have even seen. So, I guess its “Don’t reference a better evangelism moment at the beginning of your crappy evangelism attempt.” Yeah, I do have to point out that this did get a very limited theatrical release, but really, outside of various church groups, I doubt it really got the audience that Christiano would have wanted.

Yeah, all credit badgering aside, it’s 1890 when we meet our main character, Russel Carlisle, as he catches a boy stealing marbles. He tells the kid that “stealing is wrong,” but since television hasn’t been invented yet, there aren’t any crappy 80’s cartoons around to tack that message to, so it’s a reasonable move on his part. Russel is actually kind of a reasonable character throughout the movie, only becoming a caricature at the end. Of course, it’s damaged by two things: number one, this is so obviously NOT 1890, and two, every other character in the movie is a stereotype, caricature, or background element. They’re all props. Every last one of them. Worst of the props is our film’s Doc Brown, which we will get to shortly. First off, there’s Russell’s co-workers, which, quite honestly are boring idiots. There’s Mutton chops, Wilford Brimley, Forgettable guy, and Boss. And, after they shoot the breeze for a couple minutes, our Doc Brown arrives. Norris Anderson (insert Mr. Anderson Matrix joke here), played by Gavin McLeoud, who you might know as the Captain of the Love Boat. And if you did know that, congratulations, you’re old now.

Captain Neo here decides that due to a single sentence, he is going to not endorse Russel’s new book, despite the fact that his vote was not originally going to be considered and he officially hadn’t read the manuscript yet. So, yeah, minor plot hiccup, I think. In any case, he pushes the filmmaker’s argument for the movie: Morality is completely irrelevent unless you invoke the name of Jesus, because without Jesus as a standard, “Man is just left to compare ideas. One person says it’s wrong to steal, another says it’s not.” Yeah, um, in what universe is that the case? He is the main reason that, about ten minutes into the film, we realize that Christians might actually be worshiping a holy jerk as their God. He explicitly explains that he would even rather allow people to commit unjust acts without correction than to correct them without invoking Jesus, on the off chance that they would decide they needed God because of their guilt. Hey, dumbass, that’s not how you do things in this place called Reality. You just said that you’d rather let a murderer get away with it if the police didn’t invoke the name of Jesus when they arrested him. Now, I know I’m technically stretching it, but you did say that about someone stealing something. Oh, and he got all of that from ONE SENTENCE, it appears.

Well, in the end, Russell actually goes about trying NOT to have to deal with this guy, lead on by the conniving Wilford Brimley, who seems to have a good grip on office politics. Eventually, he figures out a way to get around Anderson’s block, but he is forced to come visit Anderson anyway. So, yeah, as it turns out, Norris’s dad, John, invented a time machine. And he wants to send Russel into the future, to see what happens without attaching Jesus’s name to morality. “You must see what happens in the future.” “It’s your kids, Marty, something’s gotta be done about your kids!”

So Russel, curious as he appears to be, decides a day later to go ahead and jump into the future, after getting off a shot at evolution, and receiving very little advice from Doc Norris about how to get back and who to contact in the future to get information. And soon after, we get the best part of the movie. Russel travels about, confused about what he is seeing, but still enraptured by the technological advancement. His naivety actually makes these scenes entertaining, even if they just amount to padding. These scenes feel organic, real in a way, compared to the heavy handed stuff from before and the stuff we will see in the future. So, he visits a pawn shop, where they scam him and he doesn’t notice, and he goes to a hotel where he fails realize that the guy is asking for a tip, though he does get out of it the way I plan to in the future. Eventually, he ends up at a laundromat, where Paul Rodriguez plays the token Hispanic character in the movie, and ends up being about the only guy who actually gets converted by the end. Russel goes to a church then, and sees that everyone is bored out of their skull, as expected. Not sure why he was sitting next to the obviously gay Sonny Bono look-alike, but at least they don’t make any derogatory comments toward the gays in this movie. Also, Charlton Heston is on his other side and seems strangely interested in his bible. Like, obsessed almost.

Anyway, there is a mirrored scene to the Marble thing at the beginning, where a little girl steals his hot dog. Trust me, man, you aren’t missing much. Next scene has another gay guy, but yeah, there are a number of scenes where he is horrified by the “sinful” things he sees. And after more filler, we jump to the university, where we meet Michelle, probably the only other nearly human character in the movie. In any case, she seems to figure out that something really strange is going on with the two guys from the past. After that scene of heavy handed bullcrap, we get more filler of Russel being offended, including him running horrified from a theater after someone blasphemes the name of the Lord on screen. That’s nothing, he should hear me run Icecrown Citadel in WoW.

It is kind of interesting how Russel never seems to figure out that he should just shut up and not press the issue of not understanding things like “50’s diner” or voices on a telephone. That’s a good, inconspicuous time traveler, there. Anyway, he talks to Michelle again about how Satan won his greatest victory at the beginning of the movie industry. I have to say, I agree with the time, but not with what they think the victory was. Come on, how did you confuse “not mentioning Jesus’s name in the movies” with “someone actually made Birth of a Nation?” Missing the tree for the non-existant forest, it seems. Oh, and children are allowed to pray in school, but the school cannot teach or enforce any belief in religious ideology. This whole scene is painful, detracting from any part of the movie that actually could be entertaining, especially since a really good scene actually does happen right before he goes back to the past.

Oh, and there’s a subplot about two guys trying to figure out who he is, but they are unable to make the obvious leap, so, it’s basically pointless. He also considers looking up what happens to him, but decides not to, which is actually a good idea in my book.

In any case, after a TV watching scene that is actually funny in its absurdity, he talks again to the people at the church and warns them that the end times are coming, and Jesus will return soon, I can only assume to put his father and the other Titans into the earth and rule humanity from Mt. Olympus for the next thousand years. After his “get right with the lord” speech, the scene ends with the biggest “screw you” I could have come up with to the ideas in the movie itself. The church members sing “Amazing Grace.” Grace, of course, is the concept of free salvation for the asking, effectively. You know, that whole “life of sin, followed by death bed confession and repentance” idea. The reason why so many death row inmates would go to heaven if such a place existed. So, the movie just made itself pointless.

Following that is the ending, where Russel rewrites his book, renames it, and says something about needing to change the times. Back at the lab, Norris tries sending a bible into the future, failing repeatedly as he winds the years backwards on the machine from 2100 down to, by counting the sound effects, at least 2060. Which, when you think about it, means that Russel’s conversion was apparently pointless, and Jesus can screw with time travel. The earth will still exist for a thousand years after the return of the Messiah, according to the Millennial Dispensationalism ideology the movie’s creators appear to buy into. Oh, and looks like he made it back to the past, since in the future, he is said to have died in the 30’s, so, his time travel meant absolutely nothing. That, and there is the whole thing about time travel making it theoretically possible to find the day of the return of Jesus, which the bible seems to say is an impossible thing for anyone to actually know. So, uh, doesn’t time travel kinda go against scripture there, and thus disagree with your point about science having to match up with the bible?

Outside of a few interesting ideas about time travel and some of the padding, as well as the movie’s constant contradictions to itself, there is a lot to dislike about this film. It’s an obvious message first, entertainment second piece, which means that the creators thought it had to be heavy-handed on the message to make anyone remember it. Of course, since the message was that Jesus is a magic word, it kinda falls flat anyway.

So, now that I’ve actually listed my circles of DTV Hell out, I can figure out where to categorize this. Let’s see…

This one would be sentenced to the circle of Wrath, a place for movies with hateful or heavy-handed, forceful ideas. They cannot abide others who live apart from their ways, and thus, their anger toward that existence drives them to force their ideas down our throats. It would seem that religious movies would be most qualified for that idea, but there are a few others that also qualify. In fact, I might actually have one from the other side of the aisle, but I’ll have to look through it again. So, for next week, we will jump into the comedy genre (though I use that term very loosely) to look at a parody movie so bad, it makes Meet the Spartians look like brilliant cinema.

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