Category Archives: Second Glance
Time for another Christiano film! But oh, this one is just a bit different. No hearty “Jesus, man!” or solemn promise to come to Jesus “all the way.” Nope, this is a quiet, moody piece. I’m serious. And enough things work that I am almost inclined to…like the movie.
I know, right? But don’t worry—the movie’s shabby treatment of its main character, Larry, and the usual nasty message of Christian films prevent me from giving this a Ruby Star (which I just made up anyway).
Said Larry has already made a brief appearance on this site—he was the “of this world” sales clerk in Time Changer.
Oh, and one more thing before we start: see how the trailer keeps the plot focused on the “quiet, humble man“? The redhead? Yeah, this movie seems to be under the impression that he is our hero, when, by any rational estimation, the role of hero (or anti-hero, if you must) belongs to Larry. And this strange idea about who this movie is about is not limited to the trailer—every piece of writing I’ve seen on this movie, including the DVD back cover matter, calls Larry the “antagonist.” But read on, and let me know who you think are our heroes and villains and anybody in between.
The film opens with a black-and-white montage showing us just how frakked up our atheist “antagonist’s” life is. It all starts when Larry’s dad walks out on him and his mother when he is seven. Just to make sure we Get It, Dad leaves with these resounding words to Mom:
“Look, I hate you. And I hate that kid. And you’re never gonna see me again. EVER.”
Ah, just another day in a non-Christian “home.” And just to be sure we really, really Get It, Dad’s words echo: And I hate that kid…and I hate that kid…and I hate that KID… as Larry cries out for his father.
(In a decision that is both sensible and cost-effective, Larry and his dad are played by the same actor, Brad Heller. The man single-handedly makes this movie watchable.)
As morose music plays, we see that the next twenty-five years of Larry’s life are not much of an improvement: his mother gets a job cleaning (not that this is a horrible thing, but the morose music keeps playing anyway).
Then adult Larry is thrown in jail (wearing a black-and-white-striped prison jumpsuit that makes it look like he’ll be working on the chain gang).
Then, after getting out of jail, he strikes out with a woman at a bar.
Well, jail is hardly a surprise for our erstwhile “antagonist.” After all, coming from a “broken home” with no Christian values, Larry doesn’t know right from wrong.
As for the unsuccessful pick-up: Larry is presented here as more clueless schmuck than amoral predator. He strikes up a conversation with the woman, drops a few compliments, and asks her out. He’s pretty obviously trying too hard, but the woman’s reaction (“Drop dead.”) still seems cruel. What, a “No, thanks” wouldn’t have sufficed?
Larry works at a factory (kinda looks like they bottle orange juice, but between my color blindness and the bad lighting in the factory, it’s difficult to tell), apparently second shift. After work, he and his two friends head to a local diner to grab a late bite, and this is where the bulk of the film takes place.
On a couple of occasions, however, we switch outside to a guy handing out tracts. He seems genuinely surprised that his evangelism technique of accosting people at eleven o’clock at night in the middle of the light industrial district isn’t working.
“God loves you, man. Don’t you know that God loves you?”
In the diner (in which they are currently the only customers) Larry’s two buddies, Mike and Vince, give him some good-natured grief about an episode earlier in the day. We’ll call it Larry Strikes Out, Part Deux. Larry has a crush on a woman who works in the office of their factory. He says “hi” to her every day as he comes in. Let me be clear about something, in light of events to come: this is as far as it has ever gone. A casual greeting. Hi.
Later in the workday, on their break, Christian co-worker Riley attempts to school Larry on the situation:
“She just isn’t seeing it your way.”
Wise words, though I can hardly blame Larry for not taking them to heart, given the massive, self-satisfied smirk on Riley’s face as he delivers the message.
From left, Larry (ticked off at Riley), Vince (trying to stay out of it),
and Riley (smugly smirking as he shoots down Larry’s hopes).
“Ah, I know what it is. It’s because she’s religious and I’m a heathen.”
Gorram straight, he’s a heathen! Join us, Larry. JOIN US.
“I’m surprised you know what that word means.” [smugs Riley]
Screw you, Riley.
“I’ll pretend I didn’t hear that, you fake.” [responds Larry, awesomely]
“Look, man, she’s not interested in dating someone who’s not a Christian.”
“Well, then I guess it’s her that’s acting like a heathen.”
How can you tell when a Christian is writing lines for an atheist? When the atheist character thinks that “being a jerk” is synonymous with not believing.
Anyway, Riley starts to quote 2 Corinthians at Larry, and I can only assume he’s going for this verse, but Larry cuts him off, utterly annoyed.
Turns out that Riley’s advice was prescient: the boss calls Larry to his office even later that same day, and tells Larry to stop “harassing” (that word again!) the woman. Because “lawyers take these things very seriously.” Strangely, Larry does not respond with a simple “You’ll be hearing from my union,” but he does defend himself, pointing out that he’s only ever said “hi” to her.
In this little game of “she said, he said,” however, the boss immediately and unquestionably believes “the girl” (who never is granted the dignity of a name). Why? Because “she’s a nice Christian girl.”
Well, I guess I’m up a creek if I’m ever “harassed” (or said “hi” to) under this guy’s watch.
Larry finishes his story to his friends by concluding that Riley, the boss, and the woman are “a bunch of fakes” (a theme he will expound upon further in a little while).
Weird moment: Larry’s burger is ready, and he teases the diner owner/cook, Jackson, about the doneness of the meat.
“Okay, Jackson, your life is on the line tonight. This better be cooked exactly the way I like it.”
“Hey, it’s your life that’s one the line tonight. You just don’t know it yet.”
Um, what? How does Jackson know what’s about to transpire? IS HE THE FOURTH IN OUR CHRISTIAN MOVIE LINEUP OF ANGELS???
Second Glance Angel
Escape from Hell Angel One and Angel Two
And now Jackson from Late One Night.
I’m still unimpressed by angels, but that dinner special is quite reasonable.
Time to get rid of the woman so the men can talk religion! Oh yeah, there’s another whole woman in this movie: Patty, the waitress. She knows the factory guys, and has a friendly, teasing relationship with them, especially Larry. Unfortunately, she heads off for a party, leaving Larry, his two buddies, and Jackson the possible angel, in the diner alone.
Meanwhile, Tract Guy actually has a bite! You can tell Tract Guy is just STOKED that he has a chance at a conversion…so much so that he fails to realize that the guy he is trying to convert IS ALREADY A CHRISTIAN. This is our introduction to the guy that RTCs think is the real hero of this movie. We never learn his real name, but Larry mockingly calls him Jesus, so I will do the same:
Tract Guy: “Hey. Hey, man. God loves you, man. Do you know God loves you, man?
Jesus: “Why, yes. Yes, I do.”
TG: “Do you know that God gave his only son Jesus to die on the cross for your sins?”
TG: “Do you know that Jesus died and was buried and rose again on the third day according to the Scriptures? Do you know this, man?”
“Now, I have to warn you: there are a lot of people out there who know facts about Jesus but they ain’t going to Heaven when they die. The question is, have you done anything about what you know?”
“Yes, I have.”
“Have you realized you are a sinner, and Jesus is the one who can forgive you of your sins? Have you repented towards God and put your faith in Jesus alone for the forgiveness of your sins, and received him in your life as your Lord and Savior? Have you done that, man?”
“Yeah, I have.”
“Oh, that’s good to hear, that’s good to hear.”
*Jesus starts to walk away, but Tract Guy just will not leave him alone*
“You know, life is like being on a boat: When you have Jesus in your life, you’re on Noah’s ark. But when you don’t have Jesus in your life, you’re on the Titanic.” *TG chuckles at his own joke* “Do you hear me, man?”
Um, Tract Guy, not everyone on the Titanic died. Just so you know.
“Yeah, I hear ya.”
“Jesus is the only way to the Father in Heaven…the only way!”
*Jesus keeps walking away*
“I hear ya.” [Jesus responds, over his shoulder, but still trying to get away]
“You have to live for eternity, not the weekend! Deny thyself, follow Jesus.”
“I hear ya.”
“God loves you, man. God loves you.”
*Jesus turns all the way around*
“God loves you.”
“I hear ya, man, I hear ya. God loves you.”
I think we have a strong candidate for World’s Most Pointless Conversation: this Jesus guy is already RTC! But you just know that Tract Guy will go home and mark this interaction in his diary as “Successful Conversion of Heathen.”
Does the movie even realize how this guy comes off—as a blowhard in love with the sound of his own voice who will not just STFU or let anyone get a word in edgewise?
And RTCs like this wonder why people walk past street evangelists as quickly as possible.
Jesus, of course, as our model of a Good Christian, puts up with the blowhard with a smile, and actually takes the tract, even though he presumably knows all the boilerplate arguments in the stupid little thing. Oh well, it will become important in a minute.
Jesus wanders into the diner, and Larry teases him in a pretty obnoxious and juvenile manner about what to order. Jesus ignores him and places his order, and Jackson reacts to the whole situation in a terribly Christian manner, telling Jesus that “I have to put up with that idiot [Larry] every night.“ Well, fine, jerk, I guess Larry doesn’t have to patronize your establishment EVERY SINGLE NIGHT.
Jesus heads to the bathroom, leaving his coat behind. This is Larry’s cue—he sneaks over and starts rummaging through Jesus’s pockets.
DUDE, NOT COOL.
Man, atheists, amirite? Leave them alone for thirty seconds, and they’ll rob you blind.
Or at least, they’ll take your worthless tract.
Yep, Larry doesn’t take a wallet or a phone or anything else—just the tract.
When Jesus comes back, Larry tries to strike up a conversation again, and Jackson tells him to knock it off. So Larry mutters to Jesus that “I have to put up with that idiot [Jackson] every night.“
Okay, I’ll admit it—that’s pretty funny.
Things start to get interesting here, and again, it’s due almost entirely to Brad Heller’s acting. Gotta remember that Larry has had a really shitty day, what with people giving him grief about his lack of religion left and right, and now he just seems anxious for a little verbal sparring to make himself feel better.
SO HE STARTS TO CRITIQUE THE TRACT OUT LOUD!
See why I like this guy?
Larry, a born (again?) critiquer. JOIN US.
Larry tells Jesus that the tract fell out of his pocket, and tries to give it back. Jesus, speaking to Larry for the first time, tells him to keep it.
“Gee, thanks, but I’m not religious.” [says Larry]
“Neither am I.”
“Well, what are you then?”
GAH, I hate that bit. Christianity isn’t a religion, it’s the TRUTH. It’s a RELATIONSHIP.
Gimme a break. Hate to break it to Jesus here, but you have a religion, just like so many other people. Special Snowflake Syndrome strikes the Christian Church.
Larry keeps at it, neatly displacing his anger at Riley and his boss onto Jesus (Ah-HA, just like atheists always displace their anger at others onto God! Man, atheists, right?)
Larry reiterates his earlier point that all the Christians he knows are “fakes.” And this appears to be not just Larry blowing smoke—his friends agree that their coworkers have a tendency to preach at them, but then don’t practice what they preach.
Oh, and smug Riley can kiss my ass. Yes, Larry knows what a heathen is, and he knows what a hypocrite is, and he lays out the definition very nicely for Jesus.
Jesus does not at all address Larry’s questions about Christian hypocrisy. (And get used to this—Jesus evades nearly all of Larry’s questions.) So Larry brings up his next point, that the reason Christians are hypocrites is that they don’t really believe–specifically, that they don’t really believe in Hell.
“The Bible stuff, it ain’t real to you, man. It’s something you heard, or something you were taught, or say you believe. But you really don’t.”
Apparently, Riley and other Christians at the factory regularly tell Larry and Mike and Vince and other non-Christians that they’re going to Hell unless they convert. So it comes to this for Larry:
“Now, if you guys really believed that, if you really believed that we were going to Hell when we die, your would do everything in your power to keep us from going there, am I right? Am I right?”
“Right!” [chorus Mike and Vince]
“Sure I am! You would do whatever it took, but you don’t, because the Bible stuff, it ain’t real to you, man.”
“Hey, Larry,” [interjects Jackson] “since this is such a big deal to you, then why don’t you go out there on the street and keep all those people from going to Hell?”
Jackson’s not real big on listening, is he?
“Look, I don’t even believe in this stuff, man. I’m just trying to show that these Christians don’t, either.”
I see Larry can take care of himself.
So, Larry asks Jesus directly if he, Larry, is going to Hell when he dies. (You can see this bit in the trailer.)
Jesus has a pithy response.
Jesus stares down at the empty counter (because seriously, it is taking Jackson forever to make one chicken sandwich), and when it becomes clear that he has nothing to say, Larry concludes that Jesus is just “another phony.”
But neither of them are done yet!
WILL Jesus ever answer a question about his not-a-religion? How big of a jerk IS Larry? Is Jackson an angel, or what?
Stay tuned for the second and final part!
In addition to reviewing Christian novels, I enjoy reviewing Christian movies. A few of them, like the recent Time Changer, had an actual theatrical release, but many of them are shorter movies, meant to be shown at church youth events. Yanno, movies like Teenage Testament, Teenage Christmas, The Pretender, and Second Glance—movies that feature Christian teens facing the sort of moral issues Christian teens face, such as how to drag little kids to church and how to alienate all your friends by preaching at them whenever you see them.
But today, in The Secret on Ararat, brand-new Christian and churchgoer Tiffany (remember her???) has dragged her friends to a Christian youth event out on the woods.
It seems that Tiffany has picked up on the lessons taught at Pastor Bob’s church, exemplified by Michael Murphy, that a lie isn’t really a lie if you just phrase things in such a way that your listeners will be sure to misunderstand:
…even though Lisa and Christy were her two closest friends, Tiffany was beginning to wonder if bringing them here had been a good idea after all. When she first told them about the retreat, she deliberately didn’t add the word church. She figured there was no point in frightening them off before they got here, and she trusted that once they did, the experience would be so different from their normal lives that they’d quickly find themselves caught up in it.
Would it really be so easy to keep this a secret for the entire bus ride, plus the first two hours they’re there, as Tiffany does? Don’t these buses usually have the name of the church on them? Wouldn’t there be a prayer or some shit before they pulled out? I wouldn’t know, mind you, but it just seems unlikely…
Also, is this whole thing free to all comers? Because it seems really awful to ask someone to pay for something when they don’t really know what it is.
Also also, Tiffany has promised Lisa and Christy that there will be cute boys. Not that retreat-going boys wouldn’t be cute, but the promise of them seems highly manipulative from this brand-new Christian.
Mark is the director of the youth retreat, and you can tell he’s hip with the kids because he wears faded jeans. He breaks the sad news to the teens that they are there by the Lord’s plan, but that there will still be “crazy fun” stuff to do in the woods.
Christy and Lisa, understandably, are less than thrilled by this revelation:
“You knew if you mentioned the word church it would have taken a bunch of, like, totally wild horses to drag us here.”
You tell her, Christy!
But Tiffany shrugs off the whole lying-to-her-best-friends problem, because church is COOL.
“Yes. Cool. About looking at the big picture, and what’s going to happen in the future and why we’re here.”
Sadly, Tiffany’s friends, like all nonbelievers, are hedonists:
“Have some fun and then you die, girlfriend. That’s the big picture.”
But despite being evil hedonists, and despite being told by Tiffany that they’re risking “everlasting damnation,” and despite being lied to, Lisa and Christy prove themselves to be Good Without God by letting it go.
Okay, I’m not so sure that the lesson is supposed to be that Lisa and Christy are more moral than churchgoer Tiffany, but that’s sure what is being demonstrated.
Needless to say, since this is a LaHaye novel, the retreat works like a charm. In between kayaking and stuff, Mark delivers “stirring” talks, and the teens’ minds “were open to new ideas and new challenges to the usual way they thought about things.”
Then Mark tells the kids about how Jesus died for their sins.
JESUS WHO’S THAT???
Something about the way he talked of Jesus as if He was a real person whom Mark knew personally made them feel that He really had sacrificed Himself for each one of them.
Passionate Sincerity!!! Waaaaaay better than facts and logic!
On Saturday night, Mark instructs the kids that it’s time to go into the woods to do what bears do there…I mean, to have a “Discipline of Silence.”
(Yes, it’s capitalized in the book—is this some kind of real thing that people do?)
Anyway, they’re supposed to go alone into the woods and reflect on Jesus and stuff and “do some business with your Creator.”
Sometimes, the jokes just write themselves.
So Tiffany says the magic words and calls her parents to tell them how much she loves them and loves Jesus and ISN’T THERE SOME SORT OF ARK THAT PEOPLE WANT TO GET AROUND TO FINDING AT SOME POINT???
In Babylon Rising, occasional chapters detailed the background of the brazen serpent and the fictional High Priest Dakkuri. Now, these chapters were oddly-interspersed, never quite where I felt they ought to be, but they did serve a purpose, and they were mercifully short.
NOT SO with the first Back In Time chapter of Secret, which takes almost six full hardbound pages to get where it’s going, which is nowhere we need to be.
A stranger from the country has come to Jerusalem. Pages are spent describing the city, which is about…what we would expect, and we end up knowing nothing about the stranger.
(The stranger comes from Capernaum, so I thought at first that he might turn out to be Peter, since he comes from Capernaum, too. But Peter was a fisherman, and the stranger is a shepherd. Anyone have any other ideas, or is “the stranger” genuinely a stranger?)
The stranger (I will now call him Billy Ray because it pleases me to do so) passes the Holy of Holies and then sees a crowd gathered around a man who is preaching. Billy Ray proves himself a nice guy by picking up a little kid who can’t see over the crowd, and putting him on his shoulders.
NOT Billy Ray. (Picture from Bible People)
I’m sure you will be shocked to learn this, but the preaching guy is Jesus, and he is preaching about…The End of Days.
Let’s bear in mind here that this preaching is useless to everyone in the crowd. LaHaye and his ilk think that the End of Days is right around the corner now (also in 2004, when Secret was written). So the End of Days will have exactly zero effect on these people’s lives.
Not that that stops Jesus from going on about how the world of the End of Days will be just like the world of Noah.
Which is exactly what Tim LaHaye said in the Foreword. If nothing else, you have to admire the man’s moxie.
Billy Ray is transfixed by the words, even though he will be many centuries dead before they mean anything:
[Billy Ray] gently lowered the boy down to the ground and whispered quietly to himself, as if repeating the words would reveal their meaning: “…because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him…”
Yeah, this has nothing to do with you, Billy Ray. Move along.
This has to do with much more important people. Like Michael Murphy and Rayford Steele and Tim LaHaye.
Wow, work and family really got in the way of my Second-Glance-critiquing duties these past two weeks. I feel guilty, leaving the fate of Scotty an open question.
HAVE YOU BEEN ON THE EDGE OF YOUR SEAT???
Fear not, all shall soon be revealed.
Dan and his buddies ditch and head to the malt shop. (Or the local Friendly’s. Whichever.) There, Mr. Millner is one of the waiters. Bitter and angry (I mean, a bit more so than when he was a teacher), he cites the kids “messing with my car” and being “all alike” as his reasons for leaving. Arriving home, Dan discovers a shiny new car, that he bought with money he won gambling on football games. His parents are divorced, his mom is dating, and Jenny was never born. Nonplussed at this, Dan heads to Randy’s party with Tamara. There, Melanie arrives to announce that she is pregnant and Dan is the father. Tamara dumps his ass, Dan forces Melanie to admit she’s lying, but then Bull shows up in a jealous rage. He chases Dan to the church, where Dan is magically made a believer again. Angel Muriel explains the lessons Dan needed to learn, and Dan happily returns to his old life, asking Vickie out, and ending the movie with a hearty, “Jesus, man!”
Millner: But, then, you’re all the same, aren’tcha? A bunch of spoiled kids whose only understanding of life comes from watching music videos! Hey! [to a waitress] Wait on these no-goods for me, will ya?
Ruby: Yanno, I can’t work up a lot of sorry for the guy. He was a jerk and appeared to hate all kids everywhere.
Angus: And he busted Dan for cheating. Falsely.
Dan’s mom delightedly heads off on her date with Wes.
Ruby: She looks so happy! Clearly getting divorced was the best thing that happened to her. Are we really supposed to be upset about this?
Angus: She’s cheerful and full of life and dating a nice guy. What’s the problem?
Dan and Muriel have the following jaw-dropping dialogue, and I feel I must emphasize here that I have not altered the dialogue in any way.
Dan: Hey, what’s up with my mom? And where’s my dad and Jenny?
Muriel: Your folks have been divorced for several years. You see, it was your prayers that held your folks together when they were going through the tough times. Since you weren’t there to pray for them, they split up. As for Jenny, she was never born.
Angus: Oh, that’s a great lesson for the kids out there: if your parents get divorced, it is ALL YOUR FAULT for not praying hard enough.
Ruby: I can’t believe they want kids to see this movie. Remember, kiddies, YOU are responsible for holding your parents’ marriage toghether.
Angus: Do we even need to reiterate that Dan’s parents looked pissy and bitter when they were Christians, and now Dan’s mom is radiantly happy and dating a nice guy?
Dan: Look, I’m not believing any of this stuff.
Angus: *facepalming* Okay, how much more evidence does this idiot need?
Muriel: You had a big influence with Mr. Millner, too. He really liked you. Many days, you were his only bright spot. Then he got frustrated with the other sudents and left. Too bad, because he was one of the best teahcers.
Ruby: *snorts* Millner was one of the best teachers? He seemed like a bitter asshole to me. Nice comment on the other kids at school. Like Vickie, who was always studying hard, and Tamara, who was doing everything she could to improve her grades, and really wanted to succeed.
At this point, Dan prepares for the party. It is worth noting that he tumbled out of bed this morning in his orange t-shirt, and ran right out the door to school. Now, his routine of party-readiness consists of: a) brushing his teeth, b) applying mousse, c) applying aftershave, and d) changing clothes.
Ruby: *snickering* So, no shower, then? Not all day? And no shave—just apply the aftershave? Nice comment on high-school-boy hygiene, there. I guess I should give the movie points for realism, anyway.
Angus: HEY! Okay…that’s maybe just a tad realistic.
At the party, kids hang out and talk. Seriously, that’s it. And this sequence…oh, I wish I could do video capture, but Angus needs to show me how. A guy kneels in front of the fridge, grabs a few cans (I guess they’re supposed to be beer, but they sure look like pop to me), then triumphantly grabs out a whole ham. The look of joy and wonder on the boy’s face at the sight of this ham made Angus and me rewind this scene four times to watch and guffaw.
Ruby: I FOUND THE HAM!
Angus: Beer and ham, that’s all the atheists need.
Ruby: So true.
Angus: This is the tamest, nicest high school drinking party ever. The music is mild and low-key, everyone is standing around and chatting.
Ruby: I always thought we might be missing something by not going to the popular kids’ parties in high school. Turns out that my 11th birthday sleepover with the watching of Father Goose and making of our own pizzas was wilder the whole time.
Doug and Randy try to talk Dan down from the whole Tamara-and-Melanie situation.
Angus: Wait a second–what the fuck is up with that wall???
(As with The Pretender, I’ll cut on here to insert my choices for Best Actors. For most of these kids (and I do love that these movies so often feature actual teenagers in the roles of teenagers, and not people pushing 30!), this was their only movie, but there are a few standouts. One is Doug, who is one of the few characters to react to everything going on around him, not just people speaking directly to him. His cautious-yet-curious expression as Melanie and Tamara fight over Dan is especially good.
Another is the girl who plays Scotty’s sister’s friend. That’s right, people, it’s time to find out…THE FATE OF SCOTTY!!!)
Dan sees Scotty’s sister and asks her to apologize to Scotty on his behalf for “missing their meeting.” She runs off in tears. Her friend confronts Dan:
Friend: You’re real scum.
Dan: Why? What’d I do?
Friend: That was Scott’s sister.
Dan: I know. I was supposed to meet Scotty after school today.
Friend: Are you on drugs? This is a pretty low joke.
Dan: What’s going on here?
Friend: You know where Scotty is, you jerk.
Dan: What’s the idea of calling me a jerk? Listen, what’s going on? Where is he?
Friend: In his grave. You know he committed suicide three months ago. Why are you doing this?
(By the way, kudos to everyone who responded with their ideas about Scotty’s fate. Many were far more interesting than the real one!)
(And, as I said above, kudos to the young actress playing the friend–a nice portrayal of calm, righteous anger.)
Angus: *scoffs* Oh, yeah, all atheists are depressed, right?
Ruby: Witness to your friends or they’ll commit suicide, pray for your parents or they’ll divorce–being a Christian is exhausting.
Bull arrives to kick Dan’s ass.
Bull: You guys go that way! I’ll meet you out front!
Angus: Damn! Tactics from Bull!
Ruby: He’s not nearly as dumb as advertised.
Angus: Bull, though equally angry, is much smarter in this alternate reality. Clearly, Dan was keeping him stupid!
A sorta-thrilling chase ensues, and Dan runs to the church for sanctuary.
And there, on the steps of the church, just as Dan is about to smell what the Bull is cookin’, everything changes back, and Dan is a believer again.
(You might expect, as I did, Dan begging God to make things right again, to parallel with George Bailey’s “I want to live again. Please, God, let me live again.” But if it happened, we couldn’t hear it, because the actor was talking very fast and slurring his words. Natural when panicked, but makes it difficult to make out any prayers.)
Muriel shows up one last time to explain everything to Dan. Again.
Muriel: Still wish you were a nonbeliever?
Angus: You jerk.
Ruby: This angel is going to kill everyone while they sleep, mark my words.
Muriel: Yes, Daniel. Everything is now back to the way it was.
Ruby: Be comforted, Daniel. Your parents are still stuck in their loveless marriage, and your awful sister is still around.
Muriel: I know you have an attraction for Tamara, Daniel. But the Lord holds relationships most sacred. … The truth is, you’d like to spend some time with Tamara because you desire some physical pleasure from her.
Ruby: And, as we all know, physical pleasure is just plain wrong.
Dan: Man, it’s like you’re seeing right through me.
Ruby and Angus: *both burst out laughing*
Ruby: Yeah, a teenager interested in sex! Who woulda thought, huh?
Muriel: Let me ask you: the girl you’d like to marry? How many other men would you like her to be intimate with before you marry her?
Dan: Well, no one.
Muriel: Then go and do likewise. Wouldn’t it be great, Daniel, to spend your life with a person who was untouched by anyone else?
Dan: Yeah, that’d be great.
Angus: Huh? How do you know it would be great to have an untouched woman, Dan? You don’t know anything about it, either way.
Ruby: Oh, please. We all know that women who have sex before marriage are filthy lady whores!
Angus: I just…I don’t see why it matters so much.
Ruby: Yeah, I think that’s why we’re not conservative Christians…
Angus: It’s all pretty unfair to Dan, too. He seemed genuinely interested in Tamara as a person, not just doing things to get into her pants.
(As we talk, Muriel blathers on about “reaching people for the Lord…”)
Muriel: People like Bull need you. He’s never heard the good news about salvation.
Angus: *snorts* Sure he hasn’t.
Ruby: Pro tip, Muriel: it is all but impossible to grow up in this country without hearing about salvation…many, many times.
Muriel: And I already told you how your prayers kept your parents together.
Angus: Oh, yeah, we almost forgot about that horrific message of guilt for children…
Muriel: And Scotty Parks? If it wasn’t for you, I think you know where he’d be right now.
Ruby: Yeah, and that horrific message, too.
Muriel: The lake of fire is real, and many people you know are heading there.
Ruby: I have more comfort for you, Daniel: When they die, Bull and Melanie and almost everyone else you know will be tortured forever for not believing.
(Finally, Muriel magics away Dan’s suspension from school, because “Mr. Millner figured out what happened.” Okay, first of all, how, and second of all, this line is inserted so quickly that Angus and I both missed it on first viewing.)
The next morning, Jenny, the little sadist, once again blasts Dan’s alarm clock in his ears. But Dan is so happy to see her that he kisses her, prompting a tweenish “Ewwwwwww!” from little Jenny.
Angus: *laughs* He’s finally found a way to keep that little monster at bay!
Ruby: He should kiss her every morning until he leaves for college. She won’t come within fifty feet of him for the next two years. Victory!
Then Dan heads for school, where he gets all fired up for the Lord and the movie they’re showing, basically muscles Doug into coming to see the flick, then asks out Vickie. (Well, he invited her to come hear all the stuff the Lord has been telling him. Hot.
And there’s Scotty! Not dead! And the movie ends…
This one little line has spawned a bit of a cult following, and variations on the theme…
Coming soon…on to more Soon!
The next morning, Dan wakes up to a room that has quite a few changes. Well, it has no Bible study guide on the nightstand, and there’s a sorta-anime poster on the wall. He finds the kitchen filthy, with a note from his mom thanking Dan for the use of his car, and presenting him with biscuits that she made (which are hard as rocks). As Dan is cleaning up, an angel named Muriel shows up and explains that Dan got his prayer answered, and his life is now as though he’d never been a believer. The anti-Christians, now Dan’s best friends, show up to give him a ride to school. There, he finds the following changes in his life:
1. Tamara is now his girlfriend
2. He and Vickie are no longer friends
3. Bull has been suspended for beating Ricky up for looking at Melanie (a fight that left Ricky hospitalized)
4. There is no Fellowship of Christian Athletes at the school
5. There is an empty space (and a significant musical sting) where Scotty (Jesus, man!) used to sit
6. Melanie wants Dan for her very own
7. Mr. Millner is no longer teaching
8. Dan apparently cheats on tests, cuts class, smokes weed, and picks up random girls “at the lake” every night
Ruby: I do like that expression.
Angus: Nice new poster, Danny. WHERE IS MY BIBLE STUDY GUIDE???
Ruby: I see he still has the same ugly wallpaper and bedding set, though.
Angus: Because, as we all know, atheists are pigs and only know how to order take-out.
Ruby: Pizza, Cheerios, and pop: The Atheist Diet.
Angus: And really, the mess is not so bad. It’ll take about five minutes to clean up.
Ruby: Yeah, but this is a slap to Dan’s mom, not Dan. She was waiting on everybody hand and foot when they were Christians, but now that they’re atheists, she’s shirking her wifely duties.
Angus: So Dan’s personal wish not to be a believer made them all atheists?
Ruby: Guess so.
Muriel: Your prayer’s been answered, Daniel. Today, you’re a man of the world.
Dan: Who are you?
Muriel: My name is Muriel. I’ve been sent to tell you that your life is now as if you’ve never been saved. As if you’ve never received the Lord into your life.
Dan: Look, what’s going on here? Did Ricky put you up to this?
Muriel: You were afraid your friends were having all the fun. Now’s the chance to see what you’ve been missing.
Ruby: Okay, this guy’s freaking me out with his smug, smarmy smile.
Angus: I’m not freaked out…
Ruby: HE LOOKS LIKE A SERIAL KILLER WITH THAT SMILE!
(Dan goes to school and finds himself the boyfriend of Tamara. I’ve talked in the past about how Christian Youth Films never show kisses. Usually, they just cut away right before lips touch, as in The Pretender, but here, they get arty.)
(It’s happening behind that locker and that guy.)
(Dan finds out about Bull and Ricky and the lack of a FCA, then Muriel pops in to bother him again…)
Muriel: You didn’t try to calm Bull down in class yesterday when he was jealous, because you’re not sensitive to those things anymore.
Angus: Yeah, ’cause no atheist could ever tell a guy not to beat up people who talk to the guy’s girlfriend. ’Cause we atheists don’t understand friendship and love, right? Asshat.
Ruby: And suddenly it’s Dan’s fault that Bull is a thug?
Dan: Look, Muriel, level with me: what’s really going on here?
Angus: Dan is awfully dense, isn’t he? This has already been explained to him twice.
Ruby: And Dan already believes in angels and answered prayers. Why is he still so surprised?
Muriel: The Heavenly Father answered your prayer last night.
Angus: Because what with wars and diseases, he didn’t have anything better to do.
Ruby: Scary smirking angel is still scary.
(Well, Angus and I both pumped our fists and did the “Jesus, man!” thing here, but I’m going to pose a question for the commenters…
Where do you think Scotty is?
I shall reveal all in our final installment of Second Glance!)
A couple of weeks ago, my brother Angus came for a visit. Angus is a heathen like me, and keeps up (sporadically) with the blog. A former Media Arts major, Angus is much more excited about the prospect of Christian movie reviews than Christian book reviews. (Though his WTF look when I described Soon to him was pretty awesome.)
So, we watched two Christian youth movies during his stay. Today’s feature is Second Glance, one of the movies that I put up for the vote (which basically ended up a draw) lo these many weeks ago. The other, coming soon, is Teenage Conflict, a special request from Angus because it deals with a 1960′s smack-down battle between faith and science.
Anyway, I thought I’d try a slightly different format this time. Since Angus and I sat and snarked at the movie, I’m going to lay out the whole plot at the beginning, then move to screenshots illustrating key (and/or hilarious) points, with our comments. I’ll also break the movie into two parts. We’ll see how this works.
The first “modern” Christian youth film I reviewed here was The Pretender, one of the first films from the Christiano brothers. In the intervening five years between The Pretender and Second Glance, they came out with such classics as Pamela’s Prayer (I cannot wait to do this one, but I need to track down a DVD first) and The Appointment (which I haven’t seen, but is apparently about an atheist newspaper writer who gets a death message from God). Second Glance came out in 1992, and is basically a Christian youth version of the great classic film, It’s a Wonderful Life.
Synopsis, Part 1:
High school student Dan lives with his parents and unbelievably annoying little sister in Generic Suburbia. Dan’s problems are many: he is teased by the anti-Christians at school, he just can’t seem to drum up enough interest in Fellowship of Christian Athletes, he drives a crappy car, and most importantly, he has a crush on Tamara, the girlfriend of Doug, the head anti-Christian. All in all, Dan chalks up his woes to the fact that people only see him as “a nice guy.”
And, Dan is a nice guy. Over the course of the school day, we see him encourage Tamara to have confidence in her schoolwork (Dan helped her study for a big test), and talk down Bull, a classmate who becomes violently jealous whenever any guy even looks at his girlfriend, Melanie.
Dan spends the rest of the school day pining after Tamara, ignoring the innocent attentions of his “just a good friend,” Vickie, who shares his faith, and blowing off Scotty, a recently-converted classmate.
Things come to a head with Tamara when Dan’s buddy convinces him to kinda-sorta ask her out. Dan botches his Charisma roll and Tamara lets him down about as easily as can be done, though she bugs him by referencing his niceness.
Then, the day takes a turn for the even shittier. During the Big Test, the anti-Christians pass a note, which falls on the floor. Dan now botches his Intelligence roll and, for reasons best known to himself, picks up the note. The teacher accuses him of cheating and Dan is suspended. That night, as his father rakes him over the coals, Dan laments his sad state—not the suspension, but that fact that he doesn’t “live on the edge” and thus is missing out on all the fun of high school. Dad’s response: “You’re missing out on all the sin.” Dan tosses his Bible down on the bed, and wishes he was never a believer…
Ruby: Nice kid. Really nice. I would’ve kicked your ass if you ever did that to me.
Angus: Deservedly so, I’d say.
(As you can tell, Angus and I share a dislike of practical jokes.)
Ruby: “Family breakfast,” my ass.
Angus: Hey, Dad, you wanna tear your eyes away from the paper for a minute? Your daughter was being a jerk.
Ruby: Well, you can’t blame him, what with gripping front page headlines like “Jail Floor Plan Okayed.”
Ruby: They’re sitting on metal folding chairs at breakfast!
Angus: That is weird. They have a nice house, the kids have their own rooms, but they can’t buy decent chairs to sit in??
Doug: Hey, Burgess, gonna let me cheat off you in that English test today?
Dan: Wasn’t planning on it, Doug.
Ruby: Heh, that’s actually a decent comeback.
Angus: Kinda funny. Not bad at all.
Angus: I know they’re setting Tamara up to be the slut and all, but she is so nice. Look at her, going out of her way to thank Dan again for helping her.
Mr. Millner: It is my lady. Oh, it is my love. Oh, that she knew she were.
Dan: Hey, Mr. Millner.
Mr. Millner: Take my counsel, comrade: Be careful with young love.
Dan: Yeah, but Tamara’s special, Mr. Millner.
Mr. Millner: I guess we’ll see.
Angus: What the…? What is with this teacher advising Dan on his love life out of nowhere?
Ruby: Yeah, and with the huge slam on Tamara for no reason, too.
Angus: Oh look, look, LOOK, there’s the girl he’s really supposed to end up with. A nice Christian girl.
Ruby: Sorry, honey, your hair’s not big enough.
Angus: Any film about teenage love has to have the sweet girl the guy doesn’t notice until the end.
Ruby: Geez, how many times was Bull held back? He looks about 35 years old.
Angus: Really, Dan’s advice to Bull is pretty good: you gotta trust your girlfriend, or else it’s not true love and it won’t last. As usual, the inexperienced nerds have the best insights.
Dan: Now look, we gotta get some guys to come to this thing, ’cause it’s really gonna make them think about eternity.
Ruby: That’s another Christiano Brothers film, The Appointment. They’re pumping their own movie!
Angus: Um, wow. That’s taking product placement to a new level.
Okay, at this point , we are introduced to new convert Scotty. In some Christian films, there are certain spectacular lines. Lines that stay with you. In The Pretender, that line was unquestionably: “When you come to Jesus, come all the way.” In Second Glance, it is a line that is not only marvelous, but has spawned a minor YouTube cult following. The line:
But I’ll let Scotty introduce himself:
But right now, Dan isn’t interested in Jesus, man. He’s interested in Tamara…
Ricky: Go on, get it over with.
Dan: Okay. I’m going.
Ricky: Besides, if she turns you down, your troubles are over.
Both Ruby and Angus: *burst out laughing*
Ruby: Okay, that’s a good line.
Angus: And oh so true.
Dan: Hey Tamara.
Tamara: *sighs* I’m really nervous.
Dan: Oh, don’t worry about the test. You’re gonna ace it.
Tamara: I just hope I pass.
Dan: Um, Tamara, Iwas wondering…if you’re not gonna be busy tomorrow night…
Tamara: Well, yeah, I’m going to Randy’s party. Aren’t you going?
Dan: Um, nah, I don’t think so.
Tamara: You’re gonna miss a great time.
Dan: Well, what about this weekend?
Tamara: Dan, are you trying to ask me out?
Dan: No! No…
Angus: YES, YES YOU ARE. This is Dan’s problem—it’s not that he’s a Christian, it’s that he’s a wuss. Oh, and by the way, Dan, you already knew she was going to the party tomorrow, because you were there before when she said she was. Idiot.
Dan: …I just thought we could get a bite to eat, maybe talk a little bit.
Tamara: Listen, Dan–we’re good friends, right?
Tamara: Well, I wouldn’t want anything to ruin our friendship. I mean, you’re a real nice guy. Some girl’s gonna be really lucky to get you.
Dan: I understand.
Tamara: See you in class.
Ruby: She is so frickin’ nice.
Angus: Yeah, you really can’t ask to be let down any easier that that. Especially in high school.
There’s not too much to be said for the sequence in which Dan picks up the note and gets busted for cheating, except that Angus and I both about jumped out of our seats, shrieking things like: “You idiot!” “Noooo, don’t pick that up!” “How naive can one person possibly be???” “YOU ARE AN IDIOT!!” etc.
Later that night…
Father: How could you get suspended?
Dan: It’s a bum rap, I told you.
Father: You should never have picked up that paper.
Angus: YES, exactly!
Ruby: You speak truth, wise one.
Dan: How was I supposed to know what it was?
Father: Son, you need to be more careful.
Ruby and Angus: YES, preach it! You tell him, Dad! etc…
Dan: I’m sorry; I wasn’t thinking.
Father: Well, think next time!
Ruby: Dan’s father kicks ass!
Dan: *whines about being a nice guy and not going to the party*
Father: A lot of kids won’t be there.
Dan: Yeah, a bunch of nerds.
Ruby: Oh, you jerk.
Angus: Hey, Dan, we may have been high school nerds, but you know what we weren’t–stupid enough to pick up notes off the floor during a big test!
Dan whines some more, Dan’s father leaves him alone, and Dan sulks…
Dan: I wish I was never a believer.
Angus: So, don’t be one!
Ruby: Easy answer.
Angus: He should just try being an atheist for a while, see if he likes it! He’s apparently all for it…
And, in Part 2, Dan gets his wish…