Category Archives: The Pretender

Late One Night, Part 1

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.

For those of you who like to keep track of the Bible verses used in these movies, Late One Night opens with Romans 12:21, “Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.”

Trailer time!

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.

TractGuy1

“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.

Smug

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???

sg29

Second Glance Angel

angel

angel2

Escape from Hell Angel One and Angel Two

Jackson

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?”

J: “Yes.”

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?”

J: “Yes.”

“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?  :D

Critiquer

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?”

“A Christian.”

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

That’s it.

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!

The Pretender, Part 2

Previously, on The Pretender…

Things start coming to a head when Frank “invites” Keith to go witness with him on the Rough Side of Town (TM).  “Invites” is in quotation marks because Frank is not taking “no” for an answer.  But when Keith gives the perfectly sensible (and, for once, completely honest) reason that he has to work (he delivers pizzas), Frank is forced to concede with a dramatic, long-suffering sigh.

Sadly for Keith, later that day, he very nearly gets into a fight on the football field, and Frank witnesses it.  For the sake of damage control, Keith drives his delivery truck over to the Rough Side of Town (TM) that night, where Frank is busily proselytizing to his former friends.

Frank’s old friends (only one of them, Tony, is granted the dignity of a name) seem like a nice and laid-back bunch of guys, by the way.  Frank’s proselytizing method is quite in-your-face, and they good-naturedly shrug it off, until Frank becomes frustrated and refuses to leave well enough alone…

Frank (who has obviously been going on for quite awhile): See, that was Jesus talking!  Those were his own words!

Tony: Yeah, that’s nice.  See you later, pal.  (Starts to walk away)

Frank (following):  Tony, you really need to look into this, man.

Tony: Hey, you get to Heaven your way, and I’ll get there mine.

Frank (through clenched teeth):  But Christ is the only way to get there!

Tony: Hey, Frank, I am sick of your religious garbage.

Frank (r) winsomely tells his friends about the beautiful changes in his life since he accepted Jesus into his heart.

 Things degenerate quickly, and they almost begin to fight, but Keith drives up in his pizza delivery truck and breaks it up.  Frank is still way pissed off, and Keith tells him to walk it off while he talks Tony down.  Once Frank is out of earshot, it is revealed that the whole almost-fight was a setup, with Keith bribing the guys with pizza to “get crazy.”

And boy, is this scene badly staged and badly scripted.  Because it isn’t Tony who escalates things.  It is Frank, who refuses to let Tony end the conversation and walk away, then accuses Tony of “turning on him,” then wags a finger in his face, and continuously invades his personal space (Tony very gently pushes him back at least twice, then Frank jumps right back up to him again).

Boy, sure is good for Frank that he became a Christian two years ago, eh?  Because otherwise he wouldn’t be able to alienate and offend all of his friends.

Still!  I must admit that there are two nice touches here.

Nice touch #1: As Keith holds him back, Tony yells a few “jesus freak” insults at Frank…while trying to suppress a grin.  Whether by accident or design, it works.

Nice touch #2: Tony says that for all the effort Keith is putting into this, Dana must be “some chick.”  Keith nods immediately, “Yeah, she’s worth the effort.”  And yes, nice!  Another little hint that it is worth it to Keith, that he’s actually growing to really care about Dana.

The next day, Dana hears of Keith’s exploits, and it only further endears him to her.  But Keith has already been planning their Dream Date…an evening alone, first taking Dana out to dinner, then back to his place.  Keith reveals to his friends that when it comes to guys, “chicks get stupid,” that he’s played this game before and knows just what to do.

Which…well…it seems pretty late in the game for Keith to still be spouting (with all apparent sincerity) his “bad guy” routine.  On a secular level, he has expressed a few times that he genuinely cares for Dana and likes her as more than just a potential conquest.  And on a Christian Film level, Keith has certainly never even hinted or implied that he is taking Christianity seriously, or that any of what he is learning to impress Dana is actually “getting through.”  Ah well, let’s see what happens on date night…

With this couch plus these pants, Keith can’t lose.

Dinner: A shared joke.  A nice little touch, as once again, Keith seems to be genuinely enjoying making Dana smile.

After: Our little manipulator has planned this date for a night when his parents are going out.  He then fakes a note from them, claiming a family emergency.  Keith and Dana relax on the couch…  (Artfully done, too: Talking the entire time, Keith gently plays with Dana’s hair. She leans her head on his shoulder.  All very cute and lovey-dovey.  From a secular standpoint, this is setting up for some nice regret on Keith’s part…)

Oh no!  Self-righteous Frank has once again ventured into the Rough Side of Town (TM) to confront Tony about the other night.  And I’m just glad for Tony that Frank doesn’t hang out with him any more.  The constant invasion of personal space and wagging of fingers in my face would be quite trying.  But Tony puts up with it with rather more good nature than I would…although he does let slip that Keith is “just after some chick.”  Oh, dear.

Frank to the rescue!  He tries the pizza place first, and when Keith is not there, immediately and instinctively realizes that Keith must be putting the moves on Dana at this very moment, and that he, Our Hero Frank,  is the only force in the universe that can save Dana’s virtue!

(Previously, Dana claimed that she intends not to “go too far” with any guy, Christian or not.  Yet somehow, both Frank and the writers assume that she now will, despite the fact that she had dumped a previous boyfriend (presumably, a Christian) because of their “difference in standards.”  Do these men just assume that girls are incapable of saying “no”?)

As Frank desperately drives around town and the Music of Heroism plays, Keith leans over and gives Dana a gentle kiss on the cheek.  Dana turns, both surprised and pleased, and leans in.  They…

Well, one thing you should know about Christian movies is that they never show the actual kiss.  Never.  They cut it out and imply the characters kiss, but you will not see lips touching lips in a Christian Youth Group film.  This is taken to comical heights in such films as Second Glance, but here it is actually fairly subtle.

Frank gets to Keith’s house just in time to thwart what we can only assume are the very beginnings of a make-out session.  Keith is (understandably) ticked off at the interruption.

Frank shoves past Keith into his own home, only to find a surprised Dana, cheerful and quite un-ravaged.  Telling Dana that he needs to talk to her, alone, Frank invites her for a ride in his car.  Keith protests that, um, yeah, Frank, we’re sorta on a date right now, but Dana good-naturedly (or spinelessly, however you want to interpret it) goes with Frank with the promise that “I’ll be right back.”

Oh, for this to be a slasher movie.

With Dana safely out of the house, Frank turns on Keith, revealing what he knows and telling Keith that “you’re lucky I didn’t say anything with her standing right here in front of you.”  Yeah, we sure wouldn’t want to deal with this situation and include the person most affected by it.  Now that the silly girl is gone, the menfolk can discuss things.

Or, Frank can whine in Keith’s face and Keith can make a few half-hearted denials.  Whichever.

Frank gets off a halfway decent zinger as he storms out to “explain things” to Dana:

Frank:  The Gospel According to Keith is over.

Not so bad, actually.

Well, we certainly wouldn’t want to clutter up this story with showing Dana’s reaction to the revelation that the boy she has grown to like and trust so much has been playing her from the start, would we?  Of course we wouldn’t.

That’s why the very next scene is after The Big Reveal.  Keith and his buddies are once again scoping out the girls before school, when along comes Dana.  She and Keith exchange one wordless Look: she, angry and hurt; he, sad and regretful.

No snark here.

And no snark here.

This moment is actually…well, it’s actually quite well done, dammit.  Kudos to the young actors here.

So of course, after that solemn and affecting moment, Frank has to run in and spoil things.  Again.

He confronts Keith at the lockers and lectures him:

Frank:  How could you pull a stunt like that?  What were you thinking?  What’s wrong with you?

All legitimate questions, mind you, but wouldn’t they be rather more appropriate coming from, oh, I dunno, Dana?

Frank then reveals that Keith “really hurt” Dana, who “really liked you, Keith.”  Gee, thanks, Captain Obvious.  Sure are glad we’re being told this now, when we were just shown that for the past half-hour and via the Significant Looks.  Best to make sure we all Really, Truly Get It, right?

Then Frank reveals that Dana “cried her eyes out” in the car, after he revealed the truth.  Again, thanks Frank.  I’m sure that’s not something private that Dana might want to keep from Keith.

Suddenly, Frank remembers that it’s the last few minutes of a Christian film, and changes gears so fast it makes your head spin:

Frank:  You were so close!  I mean, you heard all that truth and you were so close to salvation!

Um, Frank, one second ago, the hot issue was Dana’s feelings.  That issue hasn’t been resolved to anyone’s satisfaction yet.  Should you really change the subject before…but no, Dana abruptly forgotten, Frank wants Keith to “admit his sin.”  Keith’s response: “Maybe some other time.”  Heh.

Frank pulls the Hypothetical Bus out of his backpack.  Keith brushes it off.

Frank starts to stride away, then turns back and invites Keith to go bowling with the youth group.

Keith: Don’t you ever give up?

Frank: There’s always a possibility you could change.

Keith: Oh yeah?  And what makes you think a guy like me could change?

Frank: I did.

*significant pause, cue the Music of Thoughtfulness*

You changed, Frank?  Really?  Well, if this smug, self-righteous, in-your-face prick is what you changed into, then I’ll ask Keith to stay just the way he is, thanks.

Once again, Frank strides off down the hallway.  At the last moment, as the Music of Thoughtfulness swells, Keith calls after him:

Keith: Hey Frank!  If I ever come to Jesus, I’ll come all the way!

Sometimes, the jokes just write themselves.

The Pretender, Part 1

Check it out: we haz a trailer!

As you can see, we’re going to fast-forward in Christian Film History, for one of the Christiano Brothers films.  Rich and Dave Christiano have been making Christian movies since the mid-1980’s, and The Pretender is one of the first.

And you know what that means…

80’s fashion ahoy!

The film opens on the first day of school.   Buddies Nick, Keith and Dean (l to r in the picture above) are snarking on the girls of their high school, and succeeding in making themselves thoroughly unlikable.

Quick Note: This is Keith and Dean’s only movie.  This surprises me, at least as far as Keith goes, since I think the guy has more than a little talent.  But it is Nick (Donnie Keshawarz) who would end up with a successful television career, including recurring roles in The Sopranos and 24.

When Dana shows up, Keith decides that He Must Have Her.

But, Keith!  You’re persona non grata with the chicks!  They’re well aware of your reputation for “getting what you want, and then dumping them.”  (In Keith’s own proud words.)

But don’t worry: Keith has “a technique” (oh, wowwww…wait, he doesn’t mean that kind).  He finds out what interests a girl, and feigns interest in the subject himself.  This technique has served him well in the past with girls interested in art or music.  Though his friends complain that it seems like an awful lot of effort, Keith shrugs it off and just calls it “homework.”

So what is Dana’s interest that Keith can exploit?  Why, she’s a Christian.  All Keith needs to do is study a bit, “learn the lingo,” and he’s in!  And to make sure he’s Doin’ It Right, Keith will also convince his ex-friend Frank that he’s now a Christian.  See, Frank used to hang with Keith and his buds until he “got religion” two years ago.

After which, as we’ll soon see, Frank turned into a self-righteous know-it-all.

Despite his friends’ protests that Frank will be impossible to convince…Keith manages to pull it off within 90 seconds.  (He even uses the tired old “my cousin told me about it” line.  Oh, come on.)  Good little Amway drone that he is, Frank immediately asks if Keith has started proselytizing to Nick and Dean (please bear in mind that Frank is under the impression that Keith has been a Christian for less than four weeks).  Keith brushes this off with pleas that he feels nervous and that he doesn’t know enough to convince them.  This way, not only can he keep hanging with his friends, but he can use Frank as a constant source of information.

“What??? You’ve been a Christian for a month, and haven’t converted your two best friends yet? What’s wrong with you, man??”

Now obviously, it is very wrong of Keith to misrepresent himself, but…well…darned if I don’t find myself starting to respect his intelligence and the way he’s thought this plan through.

“It’s not hard pretending to be a Christian. You just memorize a few verses, stay out of trouble, and don’t wear a teal shirt with mustard-yellow pants.”

I am of equally mixed mind about the film’s attitude towards Keith’s lack of knowledge of Christianity.  I respect that the film doesn’t take the easy way out of so many other films, not to mention the infamous Chick tracts: having the non-Christian character know nothing about Christianity (“Jesus?  Who’s that?”).  At least the film admits that merely by growing up in the States, Keith has enough basic knowledge to fool Frank without any prior study whatsoever.

But then…when he goes to the bookstore, he asks for the clerk’s help to find “the Bible that Jesus preached out of.”

His books in hand, Keith heads home for the first of many study sessions.  Generic 80’s “rock” music plays as Keith makes notes and uses multiple sources of reference (geez, I’m liking this kid more and more!).

The next day, Keith’s prominent display of his new Bible on his desk causes Dana to strike up a conversation with him, culminating in her inviting him to her youth group.  There, he tells the same story he told Frank…and once again, he is believed.  And by everyone, including Dana.

Meanwhile, Frank has invited Keith to one-on-one “discipleship meetings.”

Welcome to the Mullet Society…er, our Discipleship Meeting

Check me on this—are discipleship meetings supposed to be only two people, one of whom has been a Christian for two years, and the other for one month?

As Keith takes copious notes, Frank spouts off about whatever pops into his head…much of it complaining about other Christians:

“I have to warn you, Keith, there are a lot of people who say they love Jesus, but then they don’t even bother obeying Him.  What’s that, a halfway Christian?”

“You need to be real careful when it comes to the physical stuff [when dating] because that’s where most couples have their downfall.”

Keith keeps to his plan—he invites Dana on safe, chaste dates, including Frank’s cross country meets, and wandering around by the lake.  He doesn’t so much as kiss her or hold her hand, but he is unfailingly polite and sweet to her.  And he never misses an opportunity to parrot one of Frank’s lessons at her.  All in all, it’s working up to be quite a masterful piece of manipulation.

And…and…okay, I shouldn’t be down on a movie for not being what it is not trying to be.  Keith is the bad guy here (and right now, he certainly is).  He’s lying to get what he wants, and engaging in a very long-term manipulation of a girl, just so he can get into her pants.  But boy, the story would be so much better, so much more powerful, if we could see Keith slowly starting to truly like Dana in spite of himself.  If he actually started enjoying her company and seeing her as more than just another conquest.  It would make his inevitable unmasking and downfall so much more poignant.

Oops, sorry.  Didn’t mean to give away the ending like that.

Stay tuned for Part 2!

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 164 other followers