Both liberals and conservatives agree that the
country is currently a mess, but their respective solutions for
how to drag it out of that mess lead in opposite directions.
Liberals believe human history and civilization have a natural
progression of improvement (hence the term
"progressives") and the only way to continue that
progression is to keep experimenting with new ideas and concepts.
Conservatives believe experimentation is no longer necessary
because the point of perfection was already achieved a long time
ago, and that since this peak civilization has been in steady
decline, getting worse every year. The only way to fix our
current problems, they believe, is to emphasize time-tested
beliefs and customs that are millennia old.
You can see these differences reflected in the campaigns of the last two presidential winners. Obama got elected on one word: "CHANGE." It was simple and it appealed directly to the liberal mindset. Things are awful; the only way to fix it is to CHANGE it. Trump's slogan, "MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN," marketed to the core of conservative thought: America was once great. Now it isn't. Go back to whenever that great period was!
The low-budget TV movie we'll be discussing today, "Time Changer," panders directly to conservative theory. There's this guy who lives in the 19th century, when everything is perfect. Then he time-travels to the 21st century, where no one respects authority and there's all this sex everywhere. Shocked and appalled, he wanders around a modern city scolding everyone. And like the Warner Siblings said, "now you know the plot."
The flick begins in the halcyon days of 1890,
with plenty of people in old-timey clothes walking around saying
sentences without contractions. Russell Carlisle, our main
character, talks like this for the entire movie and he's in every
scene. "It is puzzling that he is not willing to converse
with me on this matter," is a typical statement out of him.
This gets irritating fast, and the schlubby tone of his voice
makes it worse. This is as close as I can describe it: picture
David Schwimmer talking like Starfire. It's not as funny as it
The religious network TBN aired "Time Changer" on endless repeat for years, promoting the VHS copy at the end as a "great witnessing tool." The problem is, it greatly misjudges the average heathen's tastes in storytelling. The movie's first 25 minutes are taken up entirely by Russell and his professor pal arguing in a deep theological debate of semantics nobody outside of their sect is going to have an opinion in. The movie certainly has an opinion on the matter, and the professor boldfully declares multiple times that any enforcement of the opposite viewpoint is doing none other than allying with Satan in his tireless quest to drag all human souls to hell. Russell disagrees. So....
...the professor eventually introduces Russell
to his "singularity chryno-displacement device." He
explains that it has the ability to send anything that exists in
the present time to the future, but it can't bring anything back
that doesn't already exist in their time. This means Russell must
keep his original clothes on for the entire duration of his trip
or he'll return naked (it's never stated, but I'm assuming...)
Guess what though? Russell scoffs at the machine and leaves. That means at least seven MORE scenes of the pair walking around, talking to their wives, talking to each other, and repeating the same arguments they made before.
"it is impossible to travel through time!"
"We cannot continue our disagreement forever!"
"You cannot continue this notion of time travel!"
"Your journey wll resolve all our differences!"
"I will not be coming!"
The movie runs in this tiresome autoloop for at least ten more minutes before Russell decides to tell off the Professor once and for all, and in doing so, winds up standing in the middle of the machine's teleport pad. Before he's zapped, the professor gives Russell a bag filled with coins he's told to cash in for food and clothing, as well as "an inn in which to stay." With that he throws the switch and Russell is teleported to somewhere between 1998 and 2003.
We get a wacky (well, not that wacky) montage of a bearded man in a derby awkwardly wandering around a modern city, staring curiously at fountains and a radio-controlled toy car, crossing a bridge and looking at random people while they stare back at him just as curiously.
The coins the professor gave Russell are merely worth the amount stamped on them in 1890, but have become rare collectors' items today. When Russell pawns the coins, he's given stacks of cash, and he immediately lights up in an unsettling manner. "You will give all this to me for these simple coins? WHY THANK YOU, KIND SIR!" The clerk, being from our more cruel and unenlightened era, responds with "Okay, whatever."
Russell checks into his "inn" and gets quite a fancy room with his money.
"This is your room, Mr.
Carlisle...over here we have your television, equipped with over
"Plus you can receive up to 100 radio stations through the TV, all digital of course."
"We have an additional terminal here near the phone if you need to go online."
"You can also connect through the TV with this remote."
Russell, you're not a parrot, STOP IT.
The first thing Russell does is walk to the
department store and complain about the lingerie on the
mannequins. He walks to the checkout counter and flatly says,
"Are you the proprietor of this establishment?"
"You mean the owner? No, he's not here...I can help you."
"Well, I would like to comment on those female garments on display..."
"I know, your wife would look just great in that, right?"
"I do not wish to purchase it! I am sure this manner of dress arouses sinful passions in the customers as they walk by! Sinful passions of promiscuity, especially in younger males!"
"Sir....thank you for your input, but ah...this is the first complaint we've had like this. Most of our customers don't seem to mind, okay?"
At this, Russell gives a really deep, red-faced snort of disapproval; end scene.
"I believe I would like to try one of
"Okay, what would you like on it?"
"Well, I would like whatever is customary."
"So you want everything on it?"
"This will be fine, thank you."
"Whaddya want to drink?"
"Some tea will do."
As Russell is carting his Hot. Dog. to a park bench, some little girl is watching him from behind a bush. As soon as he sets down his lunch, she reaches under the bench and grabs it. My first thought was that she must be an orphan or from a homeless family. But it turns out she actually took the hot dog because there are no moral laws in our modern godless society. When Russell gets his lunch back and lectures her ("This is not a proper thing you have done! Do you not know it is wrong to steal?") the girl snottily replies "WHO SAYS?" and runs off.
The most bizarre thing about this sequence is the way Russell runs. It's not really running; it's this awkward combination of power-walking and waddling. That girl will never cut it as a hot dog thief if she can't escape this guy.
Later, Russell is getting his next meal from a 50's-themed diner when he overhears two teenage girls plotting to sneak out to a party.
"Come on, what's the worst that could
"I can't come home with alcohol on my breath, my parents would kill me."
"So stay at my house. My parents will be in bed way before we get home."
Rebellious teenagers? They never had such a thing in his time!
"YOUNG LADIES!" Russell announces, swiveling around to face them. "I could not help overhearing your conversation and I am shocked at what you are saying! I cannot believe you would want to deceive your parents in this manner! You are also speaking of consuming strong alcoholic drink, which should be forbidden, especially at your age!" Many of Russell's lines, I am typing verbatim. It's tiring.
"Right, so who do you think you are, our parents?"
"Certainly not, but I AM your elder, and we should always conduct ourselves with honesty and integrity!"
"Look, why don't you just CHILL OUT?" the girl exclaims before she and her friend leave.
Russell refuses to chill out, and in fact, gets more unchilled with every subsequent scene.
Russell is having a conversation with a
security guard outside his hotel when an attractive woman walks
by. The guard immediately swivels his head and cracks, "OOOO
BABY, YOU LOOKIN' FINE! HEY, I'LL BE OFF IN A HALF-HOUR!"
"Excuse me! You should not be addressing this woman in this manner!" This time I agree with him; what the guard just did was crass and uncalled for. "What would your wife say?"
"What wife? I'm not married anymore."
"Anymore? Is she deceased?"
"You mean dead? I wish she was; I wouldn't be paying all this alimony."
"You mean.....divorced?? No, NOOOOO!" Russell is horrified, but the guard seems thrilled. In fact, he'd marry another woman and then divorce her again just to further spit upon the sanctity of marriage! HA HA HA HA HAAAAAA!
Russell makes some remark that the guard must look like a freak in society, but the guard says "Don't you know one out of every two marriages ends in divorce?" In the period of flawless purity Russell comes from, there are no marital problems at all anywhere. Divorce, naughty teens, hot dog thievery...How could society have degenerated so much in one century?
Being a deeply devout man, Russell spends a lot
of his future time in a future church, and though most of those
scenes are too dull to mention, this really weird bit stands out.
Russell is sitting in the pews when some creepy guy is revealed
to be sitting next to him.
"That's a nice Bible you got there." he says in a sinister voice.
"Yes....yes it is," Russell responds.
"Have you ever noticed....the strength in the pages of these Bibles. They are so thin.....but they are very difficult to tear.......THEY REALLY HOLD UP."
"Yes, they certainly do," Russell says nervously, and looks the other way.
We never find out what this is about.
What we do eventually see is Russell and the
church group he joined offscreen gathering into a van and going
to an evening out. As soon as the van starts moving Russell
sticks his head out the window and makes this perpetual
"shocked" face like the fat guy from the Ernest movies.
How could he have spent this much time in an urban setting and
not noticed a car before this point?
Then the van stops at a movie theater, and I thought, "Oh NO."
It doesn't matter what they're going to see; we
all know how Russell's going to take it. There is no piece of
cinema on Earth that won't offend the pants off him. Sure enough,
one minute into the screening Russell races out of the theater,
screaming "STOP THE MOVIE! STOP THE MOOVIIEEEEEE!!"
"Is there a problem, sir?" asks the employees desperate to calm him down.
"THEY BLASPHEMED THE NAME OF THE LORD!!!" Russell screams, as white as I've ever seen him. We don't find out HOW the movie blasphemed the name of the Lord, it just did. Also, whenever Russell says "blaspheme" he puts extreme emphasis on the "feem" portion of the word, and hearing him say "They blasPHEMEd the Lord!" over and over makes him even more annoying than before.
Later there's an after-party at someone's
house, and everybody is eating cake and chatting happily...except
for Russell, who's sitting there on the sofa scowling.
"Russell, you're overreacting," somebody tries to tell him. "That movie had a good message; he got back with his wife in the end. What's the problem?"
"Yeah, there are much worse movies out there."
"Then perhaps we should not have gone at ALL if this was the only SELECTION."
"Russell, it sounds like if it were up to you, Christians wouldn't be able to go to movies at all."
And Russell gives him a look like, "Friggin' DUH!"
That's correct....this is a movie targeted at people who hate movies. Wrap your head around that one.
The fact that those two men organized this
whole affair and talked Russell into seeing a *shiver* MOVIE
makes them the villains of this *shiver* MOVIE. They talk in
hushed tones about how there's something weird about Russell (you
don't say) and how they're going to get to the bottom of it.
When one of them searches Russell's full name, he discovers the guy should be dead. The only man matching his face and description lived in the 19th century. That doesn't make sense....
So they break into his hotel room (they're evil, remember) and find some curious writing in the front of his Bible. It says it was a graduation gift from his parents -- back in 1865.
Since this Russell can't possibly BE from the past, they deduce he's somebody who stole his identity and is using it for some reason. They agree to start shadowing him.
Back to the escapades of Russell....there's a
kid in the living room watching TV. Russell then stares in shock
as the TV displays a couple about to kiss. He immediately blocks
the screen with his body and declares, "WHY is this MARRIED
COUPLE performing this OBSCENE ACT in front of a CHILD???"
"Uh, those people aren't married."
It's at this point Russell decides to pick up
the remote and find out what this "Teevee" business is
about. He's deeply traumatized and reduced to tears in minutes.
We never see what he's watching, but this is the kind of guy who
would accuse the Weather Channel of witchcraft, so it could be
Props to whoever scored this movie, by the way -- it's one of the few competent things about it. As Russell is watching TV it sounds like a giant invisible monster is about to eat him from behind. Note to horror fans: you should watch more religious movies, because if you dig around, you can find some really creepy stuff. One of the most terrifying things I've seen in any movie comes from A Thief In The Night Part 3: The Image Of The Beast, an early pre-Left Behind attempt at dramatizing Hal Lindsey's interpretation of the book of Revelation.
The first film follows a woman named Patty as she tries to survive during the Tribulation. In the end she finds out she was just dreaming....then she finds out the Rapture happened WHILE she was asleep, so in the sequel she has to live it all over again. It turns out the dream was 100% prophetic and Patty now has the ability to avoid the mistakes she made the "first" time, making this pretty unique as far as sequel concepts go (a fourth-dimensional remake ABOUT a remake). Alas, despite her temporal advantage over fate, the movie ends with the New World Order capturing Patty and sending her straight to a guillotine. That is how it ends -- its meager audience had to wait two years for a "resolution" to that cliffhanger, and I put it in quote marks because....wow.
Part 3 opens with sticking Patty in the guillotine. And I don't know if it was intentionally this sadistic or if they didn't know how a guillotine traditionally works, but they put Patty in BACKWARDS! She is staring UP at the blade the entire time while screaming in terror -- THAT is a sick concept. And the film is merciless about it, shoving it in your face by continually playing the angle from Patty's POV. Worse yet, it's 1980, which means an extremely unnerving primitive synth score is embellishing the scene (quite effectively, I might add).
Her enemies are about to trigger the blade, but then an earthquake begins and they all look for cover, clearing the area and leaving Patty alone staring at the blade. This doesn't ease the tension one bit -- a bolt at the top of the guillotine starts to loosen which means the blade is about to fall on its own. That's when Patty yells for them to come back....and surrenders. She screams that she'll accept the Mark of the Beast, which means she just lost her story immunity and this could actually happen.
So Patty struggles to break free, the bolt loosens further, the music gets more ghoulish, the tension is off the scale -- can she do it? CAN SHE DO IT?
The Internet was a fairly new invention when this was made, so Russell doesn't have the same reaction to it. However, he very nearly types his own name into a search engine to look up the date of his own death, his finger hovering precariously over the "ENTER" key before he finally sits back and says, "No....it is not ours to know." The implication is that a filthy fallen person would immediately want to know the day they died, most likely after seeing a PG movie while eating stolen hot dogs.
Finally Russell has done all the nagging he can
do and it's time for him to return home. Unfortunately, those two
guys are on his tail, and as he enters the alley where he
arrived, they both corner him. "All right, Carlisle, we want
to know what's going on and we want to know NOW."
"Please, you must vacate this area! There is not much time left!"
"Time left for WHAT?"
He can't tell them, obviously. But as the clouds gather and thunder rumbles, they decide to take a wise step back.
Lightning strikes Russell, he's surrounded by clouds and then, in a flash of light, he disappears. The two men look at each other for a beat and then one of them says, "I think we missed the Rapture."
Ready for the shocking surprise ending? After
Russell comes back, the Professor continues experimenting. He
sets a Bible on the pad and sets his machine for the year 2100.
Nothing happens. He winds a dial back and sets it for 2090.
Nothing happens again. He sets it for 2080.....and as we fade
out, still nothing. Is the machine malfunctioning....OR DID THE
WORLD COME TO AN END?
Maybe I could be kinder to Time Changer if the entire movie wasn't based on a lie. The belief that everything was perfect and that humans were much better in "the olden times" is just a myth. The truth is that humanity at any time in history was much like it is now. There are people like Russell today and there were people like Lecherous Security Guard and Binge-Drinking Teen in 1890. There was no time in the past when selfishness and cruelty didn't exist.
When you base all your voting decisions on chasing this mythical perfect era, that's a whole other can of worms. Be careful when you wish for things to be "the way they were," because other people will be making the same wish. And you may be interpreting it one way, but the bigot next to you will have entirely different ideas of what that means.
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