Picks and Pans Review: Leap of Faith

updated 01/11/1993 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 01/11/1993 AT 01:00 AM EST

Steve Martin, Debra Winger, Liam Neeson, Lukas Haas

Hallelujah, brethren! Here is a colorful, warm, funny movie about faith; it even has a hint of substance. Martin is marvelously energetic, playful and thoughtful as a semi-sincere evangelist-huckster whose gospel caravan gets stranded in a drought-stricken Kansas town that proclaims itself "the corn-relish capital of America."

Winger, characteristically dour, is Martin's road manager and conscience. She's no Jiminy, though. The movie would have been much more fun with her role played by someone with a greater sense of humor—Teri Garr, say, or Paula Poundstone.

Though director Richard Pearce lets things dissolve into a sappy ending drenched in sentimentality and implausibilities, Martin never lets up, maintaining his intensity and introspection. He is as convincingly charismatic as the Elmer Gantry-era Burt Lancaster, if less overtly sexy. Even in brief scenes that he might have just tossed off, he seems to be contemplating the morality of the con he is running on vulnerable people.

The movie may not leave you believing in evangelical Christianity, but it will leave you believing in Steve Martin. (PG-13)

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