Set during the days of the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, Shirley MacLaine plays Madame Zena, a wacky and zany old aunt whose ex-circus antics and magic tricks are having a negative influence on her niece Kay’s two kids, Emily and Eddie.
Learning of a business opportunity to re-open her deceased uncle’s diner in a nearby small town, Kay moves the clan there from Chicago. Kay gets the diner going, which is located next door to the apple orchard of an eccentric hermit named Mullins. When Emily and Eddie are thrashed one day by Mullins for picking his apples, Zena and the kids retaliate by reaching into Zena’s bag of tricks and staging a ghost apparition in an apple tree to scare him.
Mullins, though, thinks he’s seen a messenger of the Lord and goes to church to tell the folks. Bringing the Reverend and his church folk to where the angel appeared, Mullins points out what he believes is the face of Jesus within the tree’s shadow. At this, the parishioners exclaim “A miracle!” The Reverend remains skeptical, but the rest of the people bring flowers and erect a shrine.
Meanwhile, the Cuban Missile Crisis escalates in intensity, which the deceived church goers think has something to do with the supposedly supernatural phenomenon and that the angel has been signaling the end of the world. News gets out, and soon Kay’s diner is swamped with the curious. Zena confides to the children: “Sometimes the magic works better than you bargained for.”
Wanting to lure even bigger crowds, Zena creates the same fake miracle again, only this time leaves behind a “dove of peace” which turns even the Reverend into a believer. When a lightening bolt later strikes the tree during a rain storm at about the same time the missile crisis ends, the ordeal with the supernatural is deemed to be over.
The diner is sold, the family makes ready to go, and Mullins, wanting to reconcile, apologizes to the children. Zena chuckles softly, “Now, that’s what I call a miracle.”
WAITING FOR THE LIGHT is difficult to judge. Is it debunking true, genuine miracles and instead calling attention to acts of reconciliation as the real miracles, or does it just seek to show the silliness with which some folks are deceived into making something out of nothing? Probably both, knowing that Shirley MacLaine is an avid New Ager who rejects the God of the Bible.
Perhaps more significantly, the spiritual overtones in WAITING FOR THE LIGHT seem to say that those who are waiting for the Light may be wasting their time. That is, present-day folks could be deceived, too, just like the folks were in the film. In other words, if something like this could happen in 1962, it’s conceivable that something similar could happen anytime soon.
Christians, however, don’t take a cyclical view of history, but rather a linear view — history will one day come to an end. While 2 Thessalonians 2:9 says there will be “counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders” (for which in a way the film warns us to be on the lookout), we should also realize that one day the real thing, Jesus, who is the true Light, will come again.
One of the most striking themes in the Gospel of John is the way Jesus, from whom comes all spiritual illumination, is closely identified with light. Consider the following verses: “The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world (1:9).” “The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it (1:5).” “When Jesus spoke again to the people, He said, `I am the light of the world'(8:12).” “Put your trust in the light while you have it, so that you may become sons of light (12:36).” “I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness (12:46).”
In some spots, the film tries to be cute and lighthearted, but when children utter obscenities, or their lie is never exposed, this is hardly the case. Worse still is the way Zena role-models to them her corrupting influences, from playing with matches to lying, deceit and trickery. You will not be blessed if you see this film, only misled.
12 obscenities (3 spoken by children), lying and deceit role-modeled to children