October Positivity: Time Changer (dir by Rich Christiano)


The 2002 movie, Time Changer, tells the story of Russell Carlisle (D. David Morin).  Russell is a bible professor who has written a book called The Changing Times.  The Changing Times encourages everyone to live a good, moral life but it doesn’t specifically state that they should live a good, moral life because Jesus says so.  Dr. Norris Anderson (Gavin MacLeod) argues that the book will actually not lead people to become better but will instead lead them away from Christianity by convincing them that all they have to do is be nice.  Carlisle disagrees.

Luckily, Anderson just happens to have a time machine in his basement!  When Russell comes over to discuss the book, Anderson suggests that Russell go into the future and see just how changed the world has become.  Mostly to humor Anderson, Russell agrees and steps into the machine.

And suddenly, Russell Calirlise is in the year 2002!

What does Russell discover?  He learns that even movies about good people still feature things that he finds objectionable.  He discovers that even people who go to church don’t always live a perfect life.  In 1890, Russell was shocked to learn that the divorce rate was 5% so you can only imagine how he reacts when he goes to 2002 and continually runs into people who talk about their ex-wives.  Russell also gets upset when he hears some teenage girls talking about sneaking out of the house and going on an unchaperoned date.  The horrors!

To be honest, there’s been a lot of movies that have told similar stories to Time Changer.  Someone from the past comes to the “present,” and is shocked to discover how much the world has changed.  Time Changer is unique that it’s totally on Russell’s side and essentially argues that we would all be better off if we still embraced the culture of the 1890s.  If that sounds a bit preachy, that’s because it is a bit preachy.  Interestingly enough, the film has no trouble having Russell explain how he, as someone from 1890, feels about dating, entertainment, and honesty but it leaves out how an 1890 man like Russell would have viewed women or people of color.  Russell is shocked by the casual use of bad language but, conveniently for the film’s efforts to make him a sympathetic character, he doesn’t raise an eyebrow at suddenly finding himself in a multiracial society.  It’s easy to argue for a return to 1890 morality when you ignore everything that was bad about the 1890s.

That said, the film has a few intentionally amusing moments, even if they’re exactly the type of moments that you would expect to see in a film about time travel.  (For example, Russell finds himself fascinated by a light switch.)  D. David Morin gives a likable performance Russell and the scene where Anderson hurriedly explains how time travel works as a nice little satire of the genre.  It’s far too preachy to really be effective but Time Changer is not a total waste of time.  That said, I would far rather live in 2022 than 1890.

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