As Graham, Hammer (the great-grandson of industrialist-philanthropist Armand Hammer) is believable, but overacts at times in his first major film role.  Polaha plays Templeton well in an understated manner, and the original Bionic Woman, Lindsay Wagner (who is hardly recognizable), does a surprisingly good job as Mrs. Graham (Billy’s mother).  A head-scratcher cameo by Olympic-winning figure skater and sports commentator Scott Hamilton occurs in the latter third of the film, but it’s safe to say the resulting effort shouldn’t do anything to cause a redirection in his future career plans. 

Problems aside, Billy:  The Early Years still garners points for its earnestness in portraying Graham as a lanky, likeable man with a big heart and an unswerving passion to reach others for Christ.  And for those simply looking to know more about the beginnings of this great evangelist’s call to ministry, they will not be disappointed.

CAUTIONS:

  • Drugs/Alcohol:  One character has a flashback of a smoky bar scene.
  • Language/Profanity:  The older Templeton utters “damn” in one of his interview segments during the documentary shoot.
  • Sex/Nudity:  A man passionately kisses and caresses a woman in a bar; although clouded by a foggy mirror and with a towel around his waist, Billy’s bare chest is seen while in a dormitory shower room; Billy and Ruth hold hands; news footage of disturbing images, including concentration camp victims (some skin is visible; no private parts can be seen).
  • Violence:  Templeton is shown knocked to the ground (and his body shakes) during a religious experience that leads to his conversion; a bloodied young girl is wheeled on a hospital cart through a corridor; disturbing images of concentration camp victims; Billy has a few physical pratfalls (falling in a kitchen while carrying an overloaded tray of food, almost tripping through a door after opening it) which are played for laughs.
  • Religion:  Various scenes of evangelistic rallies or church services with preaching and exhortation.  Prayer and/or passionate cries to God involving several characters.