It’s the birth of a new era of Bibleman! In the first entry in the brand-new “Powersource” series, Professor Emeritus Snortinskoff creates a sports drink that fills people’s hearts with anger and disrespect, forcing the Bibleteam to…help one person out of all the victims.
Josh Carpenter/Bibleman (Robert T. Schlipp)
Cypher (Brady Williams)
Melody O’Shea (Lindsay Lewis)
The Cheater (Peter Vann)
Professor Emeritus Snortinskoff (Stephen Sandfort)
Stench (Henry Haggard)
UNICE (Lisa Kent)
LUCI (Lisa Kent)
Zach (Patton Chandler)
Censorship Rating: Not rated, but aimed at a family audience
Recap: For ten years, Willie Aames as Miles Peterson as Bibleman battled the minions of Satan with the Word of God at his side. Eventually he departed the programme and was replaced by a new, younger hero, Robert Schlipp as Josh Carpenter as Bibleman, who continues to lead God’s chosen in battles of the spirit.
“One summer day at the ballpark…” UNICE’s voice says over a comic book panel of a little league game which becomes real. There’s some ball-playing, some cheering families, and a green hand that grabs the sports bottle of a Zach and pours a glowing green concoction labeled “M-POW-R” into it.
One team’s coach puts a boy named Jess up to bat while another player protests. Coach is more interested in making sure everyone has a good time than making sure his team wins. Who should complainer turn out to be but Zach, who, after a swig of M-POW-R, gets even meaner in his complaints. We see the owner of the green hand, a mohawked mad scientist type and his pudgy sidekick, looking on and laughing. I don’t know that this looks like an amazing new villain, but at least it means they finally got rid of Wacky Protestor.
Cometh the time for our theme song, and we hear about how Josh Carpenter discovered God. He got a D on a test, a bully pushed him against a locker, and his parents had a mild argument. This prompted him to accept Jesus into his heart, leading him to become the super-cool, super-identifiable superhero, Bibleman!
We return to our story at the “Mobile Mission Command Center.” What that means is the Bibleteam has been assigned by home base to take their act on the road. Josh and Cypher are inside, talking about a villain they recently fought called The Cheater. UNICE announces a “flashback to The Cheater.” Wow, that’s… seamless. Josh and Cypher, in their armor, run down a little alley as explosions go off around them and a guy wearing sunglasses at night laughs like a loon. “I call them ‘sneak bombs’!“ he guffaws. “Sneak up on one, it’ll blow you away!”
(Quick aside: If you read my “Jesus Our Savior” review you might recall I thought it seemed like Willie was making his character extra-special by giving him a shiny silver suit. Props to the new show for returning Bibleman’s costume to the same basic colors as his teammates’.)
Josh has some scripture all ready to fire back: “But Matthew 10:26 says everything that is hidden will be seen, everything that is hidden will be made known, and that includes your traps, Cheater! Lord, please expose these snares of the enemy!” Josh prays, and the rest of the bombs go off harmlessly.
Cheater’s evil deeds apparently consist of giving kids test answers and finished homework so nobody has to work for good results. After more scripture than I think I’ve ever seen the show pack into such a small amount of runtime, Cheater is blown away into space, or something. One second he’s pinned to a chain link fence the next he’s spinning away into a star field.
Back to the present, the boys are amazed to be given the “very first” mobile mission command center (from here on the MMCC). Are there other Bibleteams the organization supports who haven’t been trusted with mobile duty yet? Anyway, the boys remark that UNICE isn’t up and running in their new base yet and Cypher voices his hope that the person from “Command Central” with the last circuit board they need gets there soon (Quick aside: The head office is “Command Central,” and the Bibleteam’s new base is their “command center”…wow). Did Command Central forget to pack that? Alarms start to go off but, ha ha, it’s only Melody O’Shea from headquarters. Before I move on, Central Command must be a pretty hot-and-cold outfit. They’ve invented TARDIS technology--the MMCC is bigger on the inside than out--but they still can’t equip the Bibleteam with a monitor that gets good reception.
Melody enters the MMCC (look at the expression on her face as she looks over her shoulder--looks like someone doesn’t want anyone to see her involved in making this movie) by being teleported inside. Through some clunky exposition we learn that Biblegirl is at headquarters doing something important while “remaining active as a member of the Bible Adventure Team.” Huh? (HK’s Aside: Reportedly Biblegirl was “reassigned” to maternity duty when they made this episode) The boys make offhanded remarks about Melody being just a courier, but are flabbergasted to learn she actually developed the part she’s delivering and installs it for them. Our Heroes, who treat people of lesser stature with the organization with detached amusement. Ha!
Anyway, Melody gets UNICE up and running and immediately they receive a call from Biblegirl who alerts them to “enemy activity” at the baseball field, and says that they’re “the closest response team.” I guess there are other Bibleteams. Josh and Cypher go to investigate while Melody runs a systems check just to make sure everything’s okay with UNICE.
The boys are undercover at the little league game with Josh dressed like an umpire and Cypher as a park manager or something. Josh asks if his buddy has seen anything suspicious. “Two field lights burned out, some early signs of rust on the field three backstop, and have you ever seen what’s in some of this stuff?” he replies, holding up what I think but couldn’t be sure was a candy bar. Komedy! When asked about “enemy activity,” Cypher has a different, more grim report. “Lot of mean words, bad attitudes, disrespect, and that’s just from the parents.”
Josh is unsettled too: “Somebody was griping about every call I made in the last game, and I call a good game.” He’s also the one who treated the person who got his supercomputer up and running again like a jerk who’s only good for dropping packages. “You probably don’t realize how important your delivery is to us,” and “We don’t want to keep you from any more deliveries today.” Ring a bell, Josh? Even the guy who wrote the box text joins in: “Unfortunately Bibleman and Cypher have been short-handed since Biblegirl went on assignment to Command Central, and her replacement isn’t likely to be much help.” All that’s in spite of how she’s not shown to be incompetent or even simply unhelpful one single time in the whole danged movie. You ask me, if she doesn’t look helpful it’s because she doesn’t get enough to do. With that in mind, consider the Bible passage they bring up next, Philippians 2:3, “When you do things, do not let selfishness and pride be your guide, but be humble, and give more honor to others than you give to yourselves.” Josh leaves and the pudgy evil sidekick guy we saw before shows up to deliver a shipment of M-POW-R, new energy drinks kids imbibe like there’s no tomorrow. Why did they have to sneak it into Zach’s bottle if it’s so popular?
We transition back to MMCC where “UNICE and Melody look for clues,” except they don’t. They receive a coded message from headquarters.
Back at the park Zach is talking to a girl about how they lost because he didn’t get to bat, then complains that nobody is working the concession stand. Cypher pops up behind the counter and yells, “Surprise!” And I think I’m a dork. “It’s Mr. Magic!” Zach sarcastically replies. “I believe in miracles, not magic, so I’d like to see some miraculous changes around here if you know what I mean,” Cypher says. Losing the attitude wouldn't be a bad first step. Zach demands some M-POW-R, and Cypher wonders if he might give a “please” for his drink. Okay, that time it makes sense. They leave to chase some kids off a swing set. Mohawk Guy and Delivery Guy watch in glee, but Cypher seems to see them and leaves the stand to follow a trail of white stuff on the ground. “Looks like the work of Professor Snortinskoff,” he thinks.
“Across town at the M-POW-R factory (also Snortinskoff’s lair),” Mohawk Guy, who we learn is named Professor Emeritus Snortinskoff, is on the phone with Satan reporting his progress with the little league game. LUCI is working for this guy now, just so you know.
“UNICE and Melody still decoding,” reports UNICE, which she and Melody are indeed doing. Josh and Cypher come back and start running an analysis on a cup of the stuff Cypher found on the sidewalk, I guess. They don’t say.
Back at Snorty’s lair (thank you for that nickname, LUCI), the bad guys are preparing a massive batch of M-POW-R to make their move. We find out the sidekick’s name is Stench, in case anyone cares. Snorty leaves Stench in charge of production while he goes to set a “nasty trap” for Our Heroes.
At MMCC, the results of the analysis come through (apparently it was M-POW-R, spilled on the sidewalk), and they determine it’s the source of the all the disrespect going on down at the ballgame. Par for the course, they drag this out for a while, but I’m pleasantly surprised that they don’t waste the whole scene on stupid technobabble; instead they come up with a metaphor for how M-POW-R works. I like when they say M-POW-R is like nothing they’ve ever seen before, though. A sports drink that makes its victims disrespectful is nothing like a germ that breeds disobedience or dust that makes you angry. Eventually the realize that the M-POW-R drink is filling everyone up with negative feelings. Did they know they were analyzing M-POW-R? They acted like they didn’t.
Declaring that all the people at the park need “a change of heart,” Cypher and Josh armor up. It’s even cheaper than it used to be, and for some reason there’s this incredibly Funktastic part at the end where Josh and Cypher spin around in place through camera stop-starting that I think was supposed to look cool, but instead looks like about the stupidest thing I’ve ever seen in a “Bibleman” movie.
Zach’s house, where he’s complaining to a friend about things on the phone, but hangs up after disrespecting the friend. Snorty appears behind him like a bad conscience as he looks in the mirror and talks him through some non-verbal disrespect. Snorty and Stench are in the backyard a second later where they’re confronted by Josh and Cypher. Snorty throws some stuff that glues them to the ground. Some Sword of the Spirit-swinging frees Our Heroes, but the bad guys climb into some garbage cans and escape. The boys investigate and find tunnels leading back to the lair. Great evil mastermind, lead the heroes straight to the nerve center of your operation. By the way, what about that trap Snorty was going to set up?
The boys are quickly found out and caught in snare traps (although they’re obviously wearing climbing harnesses over their costumes) allowing Stench to fire a goofy projectile-flinger at them. Josh cuts Cypher down and Cypher knocks Snorty down. Showing what a master planner he is, Snorty tells Stench to keep attacking the good guy still caught in their trap. Melody shows up in a superhero costume of her own and pulls Josh down, which for some reason warrants dramatic slow motion. Stench takes a powder and Snorty is buried underneath a fusillade of boxes, his Mohawk vanishing like the Wicked Witch of the East’s legs after Dorothy appropriated her shoes. Melody wonders if they mightn’t go after him, but Josh tells them no, Snorty is defeated. “God’s Word has broken his reign over the hearts and minds of the people here.” Pardon my cynicism, but could that have been tossed in to explain why, in spite of lots of people supposedly falling prey to M-POW-R, they only follow up on Zach?
Josh and Cypher talk with Zach in the bleachers, telling him to build up and not tear down, especially in regards to authority. To my pleasant surprise they realize they were being jerks to Melody before and have apologies to make themselves. Josh tells Zach not to forget to apologize to his mom and his coach as well as to his friends, which he happily leaves to do. I’m wondering what kind of surveillance they were running to know he’d disrespected his mom and coach. The production of “Bibleman” has moved to a new company so maybe I need to say this again: having your role model spy on kids makes them creepy, not inspirational. And having no regard for continuity makes the writers look lazy, which is the last thing you want to look like when your whole purpose is to foster personal growth in your audience.
Back at MMCC, the boys apologize to Melody for how they initially treated her and since Biblegirl’s at the head office (and because they want the show to continue to attract little girls in her absence), they ask if she’d like to join their team as a new field agent. I’m sad to say we just hit another example of how five seconds of extra footage would’ve saved the show some bruises on its credibility. Josh and Cypher just told a kid to respect authority, and here they are going over the heads of their superiors to add another member to their team. If they took a couple seconds to say, “We already asked Command Central and if you’re interested…,” they wouldn’t have turned Bibleman into a hypocrite once again. *sigh*
“After all, you already have the outfit,” Cypher remarks. Melody says that it was her cousin’s idea, and the boys learn that Biblegirl is her cousin. Wow, that’s… just, wow. Wait, that’s not an amazing revelation. In fact, I can’t even tell what they were going for.
For our comical wrap-up, we see Snorty in his “new lair,” a dumpster. Stench is disrespecting him for failing while Snorty says that while Stench took off when the going got rough, he stuck around and fought Bibleman. If “cower in the face of scripture” counts. They continue to argue as it fades to our after-show sermonette.
Apparently continuing a trend that goes above and beyond the sermonettes of Willie’s day, Josh not only says we need to invite Jesus into our hearts but teaches a prayer to ask him to do so, then welcomes us into the Bible Adventure Team.
I had a bad feeling when I saw who the new Bibleman was going to be, and his first further adventure has made me all the more wary. In truth, there’s good and bad about the makeover undergone by the “Bibleman” series, so let’s examine exactly what the new “Powersource” series brings with it.
First, let’s talk about the action. They didn’t even try this time. Under Willie’s stewardship, “Bibleman” at least tried to deliver on the promise imparted by giving everyone a light saber. None of the action sequences were what you’d call pulse-pounding, but none of the villains went down without a fight either. Even Wacky Protestor, most unaccomplished of all warriors though he was, never just stood there and let the Bibleteam take him down. In the climactic battle of “Toxic Tonic,” the villain gets the guys in snare traps then after they get free stands there as they machine gun chapter and verse at him. All the villains get to fight back with is a goofy cartoony weapon that flings little glue balls that hold the heroes for all of ten seconds.
Then again, “Bibleman” was perhaps too much Willie’s baby while he was still part of the effort, and a lot of what I assume were his touches are noticeably absent. References to pop culture no child of the 90’s would understand? Gone. Lots of time spent making a fictional weapon sound believable? Gone. Perhaps not smack-you-in-the-face overtly, but his character being the most important one? Gone. Much to my surprise, the asinine things the Bibleteam does are treated as that even though they didn’t drink any M-POW-R, rather than being permissible as attempts at humor. The only dopey music video in the movie is in the bonus features, so they don’t try to make you see it unless you absolutely want to, either.
The Biblical heart of the show is, however, frighteningly stronger in Mr. Aames’s absence. The Bible quotes come so fast and furious now no kid could possibly keep up with them all. It goes beyond the show’s general penchant for “scripture memorization,” which I still fail to understand. “Toxic Tonic” wantonly indulges in scripture for scripture’s own sake. I’m a Christian, I really am, and the battle scenes with their merciless chapter and verse bombardments made me cringe. As well, the performers don’t seem to be having the fun they did while Mr. Aames was still in charge of everything, and if they’re less involved, generally the audience is less involved too.
Lastly, the new show feels even more patched together than usual. The script is awkward and seemingly important things are completely forgotten. Did the Cheater originally have an episode to himself, or was that sequence filmed at the last minute when they realized the finished movie wasn’t long enough (Future HK: The second “Powersource” episode, “Tuning Out the Unholy Hero,” includes a similar quick battle with a minor villain, so presumably not)? It’s so random and so quickly behind them it makes Josh’s introduction scene in “A Fight for Faith” look well done.
That’s not all. Did we ever find out what the coded message from headquarters was about, or what Snorty needed a lot of M-POW-R for, or what happened to all the other people who drank M-POW-R? If we did, either I missed them or those scenes got cut.
Let me make it clear that I respect the effort it takes to make a movie, any kind of movie at all, and how earnest the people behind “Bibleman” sound about making a difference with it. But if they’re proofreading the script with an eye toward consistency, it still doesn’t show, earnestness or no.
The sad thing is, from trying to contact the people who make the movies directly and let them see what people like me think they could be doing better, I’m convinced nothing is going to get them to change short of divine intervention. I just pray they get it.
My ranting was kept to a minimum during the review so I’ll judge that this movie is better than “A Fight for Faith”, but is still light years away from being quality viewing.
The post-armor up rotation on the pads is goofy and pointless. Actually, it does have a point. A point on the Funktastic meter (I’m funny). Stench’s weapon is good for another one, and there are enough loose threads and goofy bits to add up to a third.
Date of review: 14 July 2008