MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Mob money and family ties form a strange mix in the first comedy from the Rev. Billy Graham's movie production unit, a story aimed at delivering a moral message to people who might not be tuning into Graham otherwise.
''Road to Redemption,'' a $2.2 million film from World Wide Pictures, part of the Minneapolis-based Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, opens in test markets across the country Feb. 16.
''Everything in it is absolutely where the young people are today,'' said Barry Werner, director of operations at World Wide.
The lighthearted road movie follows a young woman, played by Julie Condra, who is in debt and on the run from the mob after losing money on a horse race. She and her boyfriend (Jay Underwood) decide to seek out her estranged grandfather (Pat Hingle) for money, thinking his religious beliefs will make him a soft touch.
The grandfather offers to open his wallet on one condition: that his granddaughter drive him cross-country to his favorite fishing hole in Redemption, Mont.
''This isn't your father's Christian movie,'' said Tim Morgan, a spokesman for the film. ''We've got motorcycle gangs and car chases and '72 Cadillacs flying through the air and muscle cars ... there are things in here you wouldn't expect from Billy Graham.''
In the course of the journey, the young woman sees the viability of her grandfather's faith.
''By the end, I think it's pretty obvious what his beliefs are,'' Morgan said. ''It's pretty well laid out, but it's not, 'We'll stop and have a commercial for Billy Graham now.'''
That process of people developing their own belief systems is what World Wide Pictures has tried to do in its more than 125 films since 1952, Morgan said.
Filmed over four weeks in California and Utah, ''Road to Redemption'' will play in selected theaters as a test run for a planned spring 2002 nationwide release of World Wide's next movie, an action film about a mountain climber.
World Wide's last nationwide release was in 1987, with ''Caught.'' Since then, Werner said, multiplex theaters have made it more costly to distribute films. World Wide also shut down its Los Angeles studio and now subcontracts with independent companies.
''Road to Redemption'' will premiere Feb. 16 in Minneapolis; Phoenix; San Antonio; Austin, Texas; Norfolk, Va.; Seattle; Nashville, Tenn. and Portland, Ore.
On March 9 it expands to San Diego; Cincinnati; Denver; Dallas; Kansas City, Mo.; and Tampa, Fla.
The movie will be released on video and DVD in June. It was written and directed by Robert Vernon and produced by John Shepherd.
World Wide's first theatrical release was in 1965, ''The Restless Ones.'' Its films include ''The Hiding Place,'' ''Joni,'' ''The Ride'' and ''Cry from the Mountain.''
On the Net:
Billy Graham Evangelistic Association: http://www.graham-assn.org
''Road to Redemption'' http://www.roadtoredemption.com
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