Saturday, August 13, 2016

Whiz Bang #4: A Matter of Faith

I've been wanting to watch this movie since I heard about it. As some of you may know, I am a huge fan of Harry Anderson who starred in the long-running series Night Court from 1984 until 1992. After Night Court, he starred in Dave's World from 1993 to 1997 and has been rarely seen since that show ended. When I saw this movie pop up on his IMDb page, I had to watch it mainly to try and figure out why he took the role. Usually when people take these roles it's because they think it will be a good boost to their career or they truly believe in what it is trying to say. Clarence Gilyard, Jr. from Matlock and Walker, Texas Ranger, also stars but I can guess why he took the job. Anderson not so much. But how does the movie fare? Let's find out.

The movie opens in a flashback. Steven Whitaker (Jay Pickett) and his 8-year-old daughter, Rachel, are walking along a river and while he is sitting over on a park bench, she is skipping rocks in the river. She sees a fifty cent piece lying in the grass and she bends down to pick it up. Another boy also sees the coin, goes over to Rachel and pries the coin from her hand and walks away. Steven uses this as a teachable moment for Rachel and tells her about God. She becomes Christian that same day.

Ten years later, Rachel (Jordan Trovillion) is heading off to college. During a farewell get-together, Steven begs "Promise me you won't get married until you're 45" to great laughter. Do a lot of girls go off to college and get married? Is that a thing? Anyway, we cut back to home where Rachel is packing. She dutifully packs away her Bible and, secretly, Steven places $50 in it as emergency money for his beloved daughter and soon she is driving away to her bright future at college.
Dad's not so sure.
I wondered why Rachel's parents did go with her to move in. The school was only three hours away. Don't most parents go with their kids on move-in day? Rachel meets her roommate, Ally (Stephanie Shemanski) and the two become fast friends. The first thing that Rachel unpacks is her Bible which she immediately shoves in a drawer. The first, and only class, she goes to is Biology with Professor Kaman.
Our hero, ladies and gentlemen.
Kaman says that his goal is to teach and entertain. Had I wrote this movie, he would totally be doing magic tricks but there's none of that here. Kaman is still the most popular professor on campus despite this. The first thing he is going to teach the class about is evolution. He starts off asking the class what came first? The chicken or the egg? The class is divided so Kaman asks why they think the way they do. Jason (Justin Brandt), I think, says the egg because the chicken had to come from somewhere while Rachel says the chicken because there can't be eggs without chickens. Kaman says that the egg came first because chickens first had to evolve to become chickens. Rachel's world is abruptly shattered and she thinks about this while thoughtful music plays. "My Dad would not agree with that" she later tells Ally.
Rachel is not amused by your blasphemy, Kaman.

And Mel Torme isn't all that great, either.
While it is clear that Jason kind of likes Rachel, nothing comes from it and they remain friends. Ally and Jason then convince Rachel to go over to a popular guy, Tyler (Barrett Carnahan), and offer him $100 if she lets him crack three eggs over his head. He agrees and she cracks two then walks away saying he only gets the $100 if she crack three eggs over his head. Rachel runs off, giggling, and Tyler decides then and there that he would like to have sex with her. Meanwhile, a couple of guys in the journalism department are forced to archive 60 years of school newspapers which introduces us to Evan (Chandler Macocha), who, you could say, is the villain of the piece.

Tyler confronts Rachel about the egg thing as we all would and asks her to the monthly debate that the school holds for some reason. Tyler hypes up the debate as the hottest place in town but there are only a few people there. It was just a ruse to get Rachel to go out with him.
A sexy ruse.
Rachel returns home for a weekend, taking her trusty Bible with her. Steven is very concerned with Rachel's experience at college asking her "Did you find a church yet?" As they leave for church, Rachel asks her Dad to grab her Bible. Steven opens Rachel's Bible only to see the $50 he put in there in August still where he left it. He shakes his head judgmentally and takes the $50 back because he doesn't have a daughter now. As Rachel talks more about college, and Kaman in particular, Steven gets angrier and when he Googles Kaman, he learns that he is an evolutionist. Steven even talks to the family's Pastor about this. "All public schools teach evolution," the Pastor lies. "Some Christian schools are even buying into it."

Kaman is quickly becoming Rachel's favorite teacher but Evan doesn't like Kaman. "He's not right," Evan says before insulting a random student who holds evolutionist beliefs. Evan doesn't care if Kaman was street magician, or a loveable judge, or popular syndicated columnist, his belief in evolution flies in the face of everything he loves. Meanwhile, Steven and Kimberly (Sarah Samoo), Kimberly is Rachel's mom who is barely present in the movie, decide to take a trip to college so that they can have dinner with Rachel Steven can confront Professor Kaman about his beliefs in evolution.

Kaman's argument for what he teaches is that he teaches what is in the textbooks, real people doing real experiments. He's a science teacher so he is teaching science. Kaman's not stopping people from believing in the Bible but he wants people to make up their own mind. Steven doesn't like that answer so he is soon accepting a challenge from Kaman, debating him at the school's monthly debate night. Creationism Versus Evolution. Kaman will be sure to get you some tickets.

In class, Kaman calls out Rachel's dad, promoting the debate. "We have a Dad who doesn't like his daughter thinking for herself" he says, in front of everybody. It turns out to be Rachel's best day in college.
Well, maybe not.
Rachel then spends most of rest of the movie begging Steven not to do the debate because Kaman has years, even decades of knowledge at his disposal and Steven has nothing. But Steven does do some boning up on creationism so he can be at least minimally prepared. We then learn that Kaman got a Professor Portland (Clarence Gilyard) fired because Portland refused to teach evolution. Sounds like a good reason to get fired to me, not doing your job but Evan wants to make sure that Steven wipes the floor with Kaman and begins helping Steven prepare for the debate. They become such good friends that Steven takes Evan to where Rachel first became a Christian--the river from the opening scene of the movie. Evan and Steven even track down Professor Portland who refuses to help.

Evan becomes even more of a jerk after another student talks to Rachel about Kaman's "ape explanation". Literal exchange.
Evan: "Does your Mom look like an ape?"
Student: "No."
Evan: "Does your grandmother look like an ape?"
Student: "No."
Evan: "Does your great-grandmother? Or your great-great-grandmother?"

There are no apes in anyone's family tree so that is proof evolution doesn't exist. Except that this discounts the millions of years evolution actually takes by only going back three generations but we're at the point in the movie that creationists have to prevail. I would like to note that every Christian in the movie has made Rachel cry. After being yelled at by everybody and dumping Tyler because he wanted to sleep with her and because of something Evan said, Rachel grabs her Bible, talks with God and then apologizes to her Dad. The next day, she begs Kaman to call off the debate. Kaman says that he accepted a challenge from Steven which is not what was shown but, again, God must prevail. Rachel then stabs Kaman in the heart by saying "The chicken came first," as she storms out of the classroom.
This is Tyler after Rachel breaks up with her. He's pissed that he doesn't
get to bang her now.
It's the night of the debate and Steven gets to kick us off with an opening statement. Steven argues that evolution is not science because you cannot see any change. You can't do an experiment therefore it can't be scientific. Kaman seems impressed but God must prevail. Kaman argues that faith cannot be proven but we have fossil evidence and that is proof.
Steven: "What about God?"
Kaman: "Man created God. Man fears death. Man found life unfair. A God was created to put all of our fears and problems into.
Steven: "What's the purpose of life?"
Kaman: "To live, to die, to become part of the Earth."
Steven: "I believe in an afterlife."

This segues into whether or not the Bible can be trusted. "It's the world of God." "Wasn't it written by man?" "Yes." "Then how is it the word of God?" This is where Professor Portland comes in a the savior. He then takes over the debate from Steven and explains that man would rather destroy God than create Him because we blame God for all of our problems which is kind of what Kaman explained earlier. Portland also explains that we DO NOT see evolutionary change. Plants stay plants. Dogs stay dogs. Kangaroos stay kangaroos. Again, this is skipping over the "evolution takes million of years to work" evidence. The Earth isn't close to being millions of years old. Portland says that since we can't prove either side, both sides can be correct.

But creationism is the correct answer because creationists have God. The truth is in the Bible. Kaman is rendered speechless even though there is still much to argue about. The main problem I have is that no one ever says the theory of evolution. The movie treats evolution as law which is incorrect because we don't have the answers. We have fossil records and the few things we've actually witnessed go through evolution but evolution is still just a theory.

Steven and Professor Portland walk off stage together. Kaman has lost the debate because the movie demanded it and Rachel and Evan, the guy who has treated her so badly the entire movie, start dating.

At the river, yet again, Rachel tells Evan about the boy and the fifty cent piece from the beginning of the movie. Evan then drops a bombshell. He was the boy that took the fifty cent piece. Doing that, made him a Christian because it made him feel so bad. Rachel and Evan walk off to go to lunch and the movie ends.
Yeah, and the best defense is a good offense.