Leap of Faith (1992)

Genres - Comedy Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Religious Comedy, Romantic Comedy, Satire  |   Release Date - Dec 18, 1992 (USA)  |   Run Time - 108 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - PG13
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Review by Dan Friedman

Steve Martin is one of the few screen personas out there who can slip into the role of an evangelist effortlessly because there is much about his comedy that has a slick confidence-game type of feel to it. In Leap of Faith, he embodies all of these elements as Jonas Nightengale, a scam artist marooned in an impoverished rural town when his tour bus breaks down. Never one to miss an opportunity, Jonas sets up shop and goes to work, aided by his accomplice, Debra Winger, who runs all the funky technical hocus-pocus backstage. If nothing else, the film does give an interesting look behind the scenes of a crooked revival meeting, but that alone doesn't do much. Director Richard Pearce tries to club the audience over the head with his grand themes of spirituality and honesty, but the vehicles he uses to do so don't work. Liam Neeson plays the local sheriff who has his eye on Winger and who valiantly tries to persuade her to give up the shenanigans and settle down with him. Martin finds his love interest in a local waitress played by Lolita Davidovich and there's an interesting subplot involving her crippled brother, played by Lukas Haas, but that's where the implausibility really takes off. Even movies grounded in reality are allowed one element of fantasy every now and then, but only if utilized properly. Everyone who sees the first 20 minutes of the film knows what the big "surprise" is going to be, and it's another example of where the director might as well have put in a big subtitle screaming "important thematic point." The best scenes by far are the ones where Martin works the crowd and gets to riff a little bit in his role as the man of God, but he never achieves the heights one would think he could if he were given the freedom to do so. That in itself is the biggest disappointment.