Hello, friends in time, and welcome to a regular feature on Cinema 52 where I put my weekly viewing of Back to the Future on hold and watch another movie featuring time travel for comparison. It may not keep me sane, but it will probably always involve one guy shouting, “This doesn’t make any sense!” And that’s good enough for me.

TIME CHANGER (2002)

Christian. Time travel. Movie.

THE STORY:
This rivals Black Knight for the So Predictable You’ve Already Seen It Just By Looking at the Cover Award, but here we go (and I’m just gonna give you the whole story, because you’re never going to rent this). The movie opens at the Grace Bible Seminary in 1890, where a bunch of Bible guys are sitting around a table discussing a new manuscript called The Changing Times. It’s written by Russell Carlisle (D. David Morin), and their main beef with it is that there’s a tiny section about attracting non-Christians to Christianity by sharing the morals but keeping hush-hush about the Christ part.

Gripping.

You know how the Bible likes to repeat things a lot? Well, maybe you don’t. Anyway, it likes to repeat things a lot, and it was a clear inspiration for this movie, because they keep hammering the audience with this one plot point for what seems like an hour. Discuss it over here! Discuss it over there! Discuss it in the future– oh, thank Christ, some time travel.

THE WORLD IS SO DIFFERENT AND STUFF.

So Russell is sent to October 21st, 2002 by Dr. Norris Anderson (Gavin McLeod), who did not invent his “singularity chrono-displacement device” himself but discovered that his father had built it, which saved the writer the risk of learning a few science-sounding words by cracking open one of those eeevil physics books. Russell’s supposed to see the results of a world that practices the teachings of Jesus without giving props to the J-Man. His arrival in 2002, of course, requires a goofy montage with music that somehow sounds more ’80s than the wacky fish-out-of-time ’80s music from Star Trek IV, which, it should be noted, was actually made in the ’80s and takes place in the ’80s.

They’re ridiculously behind the times, is where I’m going with that.

Okay, so there isn’t anything one might call a plot here. Russell just runs around 2002 disapproving of things. Actually, that would have been a better title: Future Disapprover. Future Disapprover discovers horrible everyday sins like:

Talking pictures that blaspheme the name of the Lord!

Let’s see, 2002… I’m gonna guess The Country Bears.

The 24-hour magic smut window!

Let’s see, 2002… I’m gonna guess Monk.

Little girls stealing your hot dog while you’re praying! Wait, that’s just funny as fuck.

You accidentally had a scene I enjoyed, movie! For all the wrong reasons.

In one scene, he happens upon a man hitting on a woman and tells him not to talk to her like that. The guy reveals that he’s divorced, but that’s no big deal, because it’s pretty statistically probable. Future Disapprover then releases this actual quote from his real, functioning mouth: “One out of two marriages ends in divorce? This is fifty percent!”

Oh, and he catches a boy watching two people kiss on TV, which he wisely stands in front of so the child can enjoy his crotch instead.

You know what else would be off-limits? The Love Boat, starring Gavin McLeod, who’s in this movie.

So he just goes around lecturing, and because it’s fiction, some people actually listen, even though nobody could possibly be as sin-free as Future Disapprover without living alone in a cave (which doesn’t have church, so HELL). Because the power of guilt affects even screenwriters, the closest attempt to a real story involves two random church guys trying to figure out why this creepy new member of their congregation is such a weirdo, which is honestly a good idea. For the record, I thought they were a gay couple until their wives were shown, and no, the movie never touches on that subject, because of course it can’t.

“Psst, I don’t think anyone could possibly be that much of an asshole without time travel.”

This not-really-a-story storyline ends with them confronting Future Disapprover in an alley right before he returns to his own time. As he shouts that Jesus is coming and disappears into the sky on a beam of light, one of them comments: “I think we just missed the Rapture.” Is that supposed to be comedy or commentary? Whatever, Past, you can have your douchebag back.

“Thank God he’s gone. Say, you ever wonder what a mouth feels like on your pee-pee?”

So Future Disapprover heads back to 1890 and agrees that we need that cross dude nailed to all of our life lessons, so he changes his manuscript. One major problem: we never see the resulting future, but both outcomes are terrible. If changing his manuscript didn’t affect anything, then what the fuck was the point of all this? If it did, then that means all of history changed, creating an entirely new timeline that doesn’t look anything like our world. Oh, wait, a reality completely different from everyone else’s? Never mind, that’s where Christians already live, BOOM, zing, I win at being mean to silly people, hooray.

The final scene of Time Changer is Gavin McLeod trying to send a Bible into the far future, but it just won’t go. He keeps cranking the date closer and closer to modern day…

OH SNAP.

…and the camera ominously pulls back as the Elfmanesque score wails with terror…

IS THE BIBLE EVER GONNA GO?

…FADE TO BLACK.

Yeah, this movie just dropped the fucking mic. Fear accomplished, everybody.

THE ACTING:
It’s exactly what you’d expect from a script that primarily involves yelling at people and frowning at things.

Check.

Check.

Gavin McLeod is actually okay as a scientist. I just wish he weren’t a smug Bible scientist.

Where we’re going, we don’t need abortions.

One of Future Disapprover’s newfound buddies is played by Paul Rodriguez, who, I’m sorry, was fighting a losing battle by having to act like he agrees with a total nutjob.

“PS – Jesus forgives you for a.k.a. Pablo– oh, fuck you, Russell.”

Jennifer O’Neill plays some lady who catches Future Disapprover up on all the exciting historical developments in the separation of church and state. She’s… yet another character, fuck it, I don’t know why I’m still talking about this movie.

“We’ll wipe out that First Amendment any day now.”

THE SPECIAL EFFECTS:
Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha.

How great would it be if Gavin McLeod just tricked Russell into letting him electrocute him?

FUTURE DISAPPROVER GIVES THIS LECTURE TO TEENS TWICE AND I WANT TO CRY:

  • “And remember gentlemen, science and scientific findings do not make the statements in the Bible true. Scripture is always true and never needs verification. Scientific support of the Scripture only means that the science is true, because we know that the Scripture already is. My advice to any scientist would be to make sure that his findings coincide with God’s Word. This is, if he wants to be a good scientist.”

THE “NONE OF THIS MAKES ANY SENSE!” MOMENT:
Nobody talks about how time travel works, except that it doesn’t when God decides it shouldn’t. The closest thing I could find to time travel bafflement is a phone call between the two church snoops. They find out that a Russell Carlisle from the Grace Bible Seminary died in 1936, leading one of them to almost say the namesake of this section.

“Well, it can’t be the same guy. This isn’t making any sense.”

FINAL THOUGHTS:
Go to Hell.

LATER THIS WEEK:
Fetching Cody (2005)

Want more time travel? Head on over to the Time Out archive.