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Single-minded fable of moral authority

By Joe Baltake -- The Sacramento Bee

Published Oct. 25, 2002
Rating: 1 1/2 stars

Dr. Russell Carlisle (D. David Morin) is an 1890 Bible professor who plies his trade at the Grace Bible Seminary in "Time Changer," a whimsical if predictable time-travel fable marred by a willful single-mindedness.

Carlisle has written a book titled "The Changing Times" and is counting on the unanimous approval of the school board (which includes character actors Hal Linden and Richard Riehle) in order to hasten its publication. But his manuscript offends the venerable Norris Anderson (Gavin MacLeod) because it omits Jesus as "the authority behind moral standards."

To prove his point, Anderson introduces Carlisle to a curious invention called the Singulary Chronodisplacement Device -- in other words, a time machine. He challenges Carlisle to travel forward in time to find out what happens when Jesus isn't acknowledged. "Good moral teaching isn't enough," Anderson insists.

All of this takes an interminable 30 minutes. Things liven up a bit when Carlisle grudgingly agrees to travel into the future -- where he immediately becomes a judgmental pest, constantly eavesdropping on private conversations and intruding upon them with unsolicited, admonishing advice and pontifications about how to live.

"Being good isn't enough," he says. One needs Jesus. A Latino (played by Paul Rodriguez) is reprimanded for not going to church regularly and a doorman is similarly dressed down for being divorced.

Carlisle is clueless about his obnoxious intolerance. Then he meets Jennifer O'Neill who, playing a university librarian, recites the film's moral message in a carefully scripted spiel: "When it comes to the film industry," she says, "I've been there and I know how powerful and influential it is to society. I believe that secular entertainment is one of the biggest tools used by Satan to mislead people."

Finally, Carlisle has met his match. But, wait! What about his wife back home?

When he does return to the past, he tells Anderson with excited disgust, "The future! (It has) replaced Christ with LIBERAL teachings!"

By the end of this very strange film, his eyes have been opened to the ominous future.


About the Writer
---------------------------

The Bee's Joe Baltake can be reached at (916) 321-1157 or jbaltake@sacbee.com.






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