How can you bash evangelists and not feel bad about it? Have Steve Martin do the job for you!
A snazzy little look at the underbelly of the traveling give me your money and I'll heal you' con artist known as the evangelist. Martin reverts to his natural talent as that offbeat character from Saturday Night Live of yore. As he bounces across the stage in that ridiculous rhinestone jacket, to the background singing of the Angels of Mercy, you just want to clap your hands in joy.
Joining his traveling minstrel show is Debra Winger as his assistant that helps him pull off his shill with a well placed microphone. Winger is absolutely delightful as she turns on her normal earthy charms. Throwing a zinger into the whole thing though is the aw shucks' town sheriff Liam Neeson, who falls for Winger and keeps a wary eye on Martin.
Martins' foil comes in the guise of lovely Lolita Davidovich, small town waitress, and her brother, Lukas Haas, crippled by an automobile accident.
Now I don't want to tread on toes here but I imagine we all pretty well know these traveling gypsies are nothing but flim-flam men. I truly don't believe anyone is able to heal with the laying on of hands, otherwise this world would be a much better place, so when Martin starts his act and the money starts pouring in, crippled Lukas gets his hopes up. Of course, Davidovich has been shilled before by phony saviours, so she is doubtful.
As Neeson exposes Martin for the lying cheat he is, Martin breaks into a diatribe admitting his sins - earning even more glory from his rapt audience. When Lukas suddenly walks after an encounter with Martin, all (including Martin and Winger) are taken by surprise, and the shill moves on.
I think the writer, James Cercone, and the director, Richard Pearce, gave us just enough of this snake oil salesman to make us edgy but not enough to shake our belief. The four main stars played well off of each other bringing laughter and tenderness to the movie. Look for the irascible Meatloaf as the organist and bus driver.
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Susi Dawson (SusiDee34)
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Con-man Reverend Jonas Nightengale (Steve Martin) trades salvation for donations to his touring ministry. When his tour bus breaks down in an impoverished farm town, he falls for a beautiful skeptic and learns a lesson about real miracles. See "Elmer Gantry" for an interesting comparison.