Russell Carlisle, a liberal theologian at a seminary in the late 1800s, has written a book on morality. The oldest preacher on the campus is warning him that the book is wrong, but he's been acting crazy for a while. Others at the seminary want it out so much that they are changing the rules of the seminary from unanimous to majority vote so it can get a seal of approval from the place.
It turns out that the oldest preacher on the campus has invented a time machine and seen the future; it's only since then that he's seemed crazy. He offers to send our protagonist forward. The rules are, the time traveler and his things can travel forward, but nothing from the future can travel back. Oh, and don't look up your own future (it's never spelled out why). There is a sending unit right there; after a set amount of time, he'll be retrieved.
So our protagonist is sent forward to Next Sunday A.D., figuratively speaking—specifically, 200X. He deals well enough with most of the technology, but the culture throws him—though he is isolated even in his own time. Dress codes, the lack of respect for elders, and films and TV throw him. Even the Christians of his era find him a bit kooky...
This film includes what may be the most creative way of showing corruption in film without showing it: church group enters theater; Hard Cut to protagonist running out shouting the page quote. You have to have an idea what blaspheming is, but if you do...
- Anachronism Stew: Unless the main character was so cloistered that he didn't know anything about his own society (which is implied to be the case), his comments about the ubiquitousness of prostitution or the starving children on every street corner in the future ring false, since in his time they were worse.
- Antiquated Linguistics: Among other outdated speech patterns, Russell does not use contractions.
- Author Filibuster: Russell gets to give several monologues on his views about Christian morality, even quite literally preaching sermons to a church.
- Caught Up in the Rapture: Gets a humorous reference. When Russell vanishes to return to his own time, two onlookers worriedly speculate that they've just missed the Rapture.
- Censorship Bureau: Moral codes, especially man-made moral codes, are a major theme of this film.
- Character Filibuster: Frequently. At least some of them are literal sermons.
- Corrupt Church: The modern-day church that Russell Carlisle attends, according to his view of Christian morality from his time period, as it has become more of a social club that is less concerned about having its members be exhorted to live holy and righteous lives before God.
- Culture Blind: The protagonist appears to be blissfully unaware of how society really works in both the past and the future.
- Deus ex Machina: Perhaps literally.
- Discretion Shot: Don't expect to see any actual depictions of the modern immorality that shocks Russell Carlisle.
- Fish out of Temporal Water: By the standards of his own time, Carlisle is very forward-thinking and progressive. By 21st-century standards, not so much.
- The Fundamentalist: The protagonist often comes across as one.
- The Future Is Shocking: The entire purpose of the film is to have its protagonist, a 19th century theology professor, be shocked at how immoral the present day is.
- Hard Truth Aesop: Russell's original manuscript was actually rather progressive (for him), as it advocated being a good person and doing good deeds because it's the morally right thing to do, rather than doing so because of your religious faith. In the end, he's convinced by the "evil" future where people actually follow this and have become more non-religious as a result, that you can only be a good person if you accept Christianity.
- Insistent Terminology/Single-Issue Wonk: The reason Russell's book couldn't get unanimous approval was that it advocated good morality but didn't insist that Jesus Christ be connected to it. To Anderson, this is worse than nothing because Jesus is the authority behind the moral code.
- It's a Wonderful Plot: Russell Carlisle gets to see what the future would be like if he publishes his book: It's exactly like our time, which he finds horrifying. As a result, he decides to re-edit his book and not publish it after all. ....We should probably not overthink that.
- Jerkass Has a Point: Russell complains to a store manager that a display of skimpily-dressed mannequins might tempt young people to lustful thoughts. The manager curtly replies that Russell is the only person who has ever complained. We're presumably meant to take away that society has become callous to indecency. But from the manager's viewpoint, it's a pretty solid argument that the display is not really offensive if nobody has in fact been offended.
- Mad Scientist: He's mad by the time we meet him, anyway.
- Masquerade: Russell Carlisle is told not to let anyone know when he's from.
- Moral Guardians: In what's likely a rare example, our protagonist is one. Russell is dismayed to find that his attempts at enforcing morality in the 2000s merely make him come across as an out-of-touch prude, since not everyone accepts the Fundamentalist Christian perspective for morality.
- Mundane Fantastic: It's a time travel film, but the time travel is the only Sci-Fi element there.
- My God, What Have I Done?: Russell realizes what society would become — and has become — if he allowed his book to be published that advocated morality without Jesus Christ as its author and final authority.
- Nobody Ever Complained Before: Russell gets this response from a store manager when complaining about a display of skimpily-dressed mannequins.
- Next Sunday A.D.: The protagonist time travels into the future year of "two thousand(car horn honks)."
- New Media Are Evil: The decline of civilization is blamed on The Hays Code in films, because it made films seem okay when they weren't."I believe that secular entertainment is one of the biggest tools that Satan uses to mislead people."
- Poor Man's Porn: Russell complains to a clothing store manager that a mannequin dressed in lingerie will "arouse impurity" among the customers. (We don't actually see the offending display, but the store looks a lot more like Sears than Victoria's Secret.)
- Schizo Tech: Solar-powered time machine.
- Science Is Bad: Zig-Zagged. Science itself isn't necessarily seen as bad, and Anderson's Time Machine apparently works by scientific principles of some sort. But Russell Carlisle is stunned when a teacher takes issue with him preaching Christianity in a secular science classroom: "Scientific support of the Scripture only means the science is true. Because we know that the Scripture already is." The thing is, even well before Russell's own time this would have been correctly seen as a theological claim with no bearing on The Scientific Method either way. And Russell certainly wouldn't have had to leave the 1800s if he wanted to meet any scientists who disbelieved the Bible.
- Selective Obliviousness: When the question is "will you try out the secret time machine?" Anderson simply will not take "no" for an answer.
- Serious Business: Seminary approval. The book would have been published either way, but getting the approval is considered so critical that Carlisle doesn't want to send the manuscript in without it.
- Take Our Word for It: If it is evil and it can be shown entirely visually, it will not be shown — even when that requires creative filming.
- Temporal Mutability: Upon seeing how immoral the future would be if he publishes his forthcoming book, Russell Carlisle decides to revise his manuscript to prevent this future from taking place, becoming the titular "Time Changer." Given that the future he saw is more or less exactly like our present day, though, it may not be been sufficiently explored how he could have succeeded.
- The Theme Park Version: Because a fundamentalist Christian film can't show the full reality of modern (im)morality (nor that of 1890).
- Time Machine: Solar-powered!
- Time Travel
- Year X: When Russell Carlisle came in the future and looked at the newspaper, the last two years of 20xx were obscured and when he yelled the date out loud the 20xx was cut off by a car honk. Also, at the end of the movie, they are attempting to send a Bible into the future but it will not go if the end of the world already happened by then, so he keeps on changing the date earlier to see when the end of the world takes place, and the movie cuts off somewhere in the 2000s.
- Ye Goode Olde Days: The film treats 1890 (and by extension, American society up to around 1930, when the Hays Code was introduced) as far better, as the time-traveling protagonist complains about rampant disobedient kids, alcohol abuse, crime, poverty and blasphemy. Of course, those things were common not only in 1890, but before and into the 1930s too (the alcohol problem is especially funny, as people took it so seriously this led to Prohibition). He would also have to be extremely sheltered if a film character blaspheming God's name sent him fleeing in shock from a theater.
- Values Dissonance: The point of the trip through time, even In-Universe.