Christian parallel worlds: A double feature (#SFWApro)

Two of the movies I watched for my book this week turned out to be parallel world stories with a Christian theme. WHAT IF … (2010) was amiably forgettable, DOONBY (2013) was … memorable. But not in a good way.
What If looks an awful lot like Family Man, not only in the concept—ruthless corporate shark Kevin Sorbo learns what would have happened if he’d married college fiancee Kristy Swanson—but in many specific scenes. We have the opening where Sorbo assures Swanson his temporary job won’t affect their long term plans, the intervention of heavenly agent John Ratzenberger, the ending where Sorbo convinces Swanson to take him back and more.
The Christian angle does add some new wrinkles, though: It’s not just that Sorbo took a wrong-turn, he actually went against God’s plan, hence the Almighty’s decision to show him what he missed. That worked fine, but another wrinkle I could have done without: Sorbo at one point surprises his daughter by revealing he’s set up a date for her (though he’s clear it’s not really anything as secular and worldly as a real date) with the guy she’s interested, all without consulting her at all. I know from Defeating the Dragons and other Christian bloggers that this sort of relationship management is indeed a real thing but jeez, I think I’d have run away from home if my folks had tried that.
The biggest problem the film has is that Sorbo’s much blander than Nicholas Cage in the corporate shark role. However it seems I’m not the only one who wondered what happened to Cage’s in the earlier movie: Sorbo brings up the question here and the end of the movie gives us an answer (his girls come along, just later than in the alternate timeline).
If you wonder why I end up watching so many movies that aren’t about time-travel, it’s because I have to to avoid missing things like Doonby. Though my original thought (could the guy intervening to stop tragedy be a time-traveler. Well, maybe) was wrong, but it turns out it qualifies anyway.
John Schneider plays Sam Doonby, a vagabond who drifts into a small Southern town, gets all the young women palpitating with excitement, particularly Laura Reaper (Jenn Gotzon), spoiled daughter of the town ob/gyn (Joe Estevez) and barmaid Jolene (Brandi Blevins). He also saves bar owner Ernie Hudson from an armed robber, snatches a kid from the path of a truck, saves Laura from a knife-wielding stalker and saves Dr. Reaper from the ultimate menace, a slutty girl crying rape: Jolene gets pissed off Sam prefers Laura so she accuses Laura’s dad out of spite.
Ultimately sheriff Robert Davi begins wondering how come all these things have happened since Sam rode into town. This unsettles Laura, who accuses Sam of sleeping with Jolene and finally tells him she wishes he’d never come to town. And presto, he hasn’t! It turns out we’ve been watching an alternate timeline and in the real one Sam never existed—BECAUSE DR. REAPER ABORTED HIM YEARS AGO OMG! And in the real world, he wasn’t there to save anyone, so everyone’s dead! OMG again! And Laura realizes Doonby is an anagram for … nobody. OMG, OMG!
Except they’re not all dead. Sam saved Laura’s life from the stalker, but she’s alive in the real timeline. And with no Sam, Jolene has no reason to cry rape, so why is Dr. Reaper still ruined (or did the filmmakers figure that’s the sort of thing she’d have done anyway because, women)?
Even beyond that, how does this make sense? If God chose to bring Sam back, why did he then unmake him? And what was the point—to show Laura her father’s a child-killer? Did God also arrange all those tragedies so that Sam could save people, only then to let them die when Sam de-existed? I’ve read the film-makers were inspired by It’s a Wonderful Life but Jimmy Stewart in that movie saved and changed lives over decades, not a couple of weeks.
To say nothing of the whole Crying Rape subplot, which annoys me a lot more than the right-to-life theme.
I’ll give the filmmakers credit for ambition, but politics aside, I think they fell short.


Filed under Movies, Now and Then We Time Travel

4 responses to “Christian parallel worlds: A double feature (#SFWApro)

  1. Pingback: Doing it over: set up in time-travel films (#SFWApro) | Fraser Sherman's Blog

  2. Pingback: Anti-double feature Part Two (#SFWApro) | Fraser Sherman's Blog

  3. Pingback: And the better movies (#SFWApro) | Fraser Sherman's Blog

  4. Pingback: Some good time-travel films this week, but only some (#SFWApro) | Fraser Sherman's Blog

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