Award-winning actor Steve Martin has such a wide range of talent, it’s almost a sin. It’s no lucky accident that his role as Jonas Nightengale, a fake faith healer in “Leap of Faith,” shows off this array of exceptional flair.
Jonas and his team of very talented con artists travel the states in search of desperate souls looking for miracles through faith. When their trucks break down in rural Rustwater, Kan., Jonas sees it as an opportunity to dupe for profit.
When obtaining the permits to set up his revival, the protective town sheriff, Will, played by Liam Neeson, doesn’t hesitate to call out Jonas as a crook. Bound by the law, Will concedes.
Rustwater, a once-thriving corn town, is now desolate and despairing. The crops have dried up due to a drought, and unemployment is through the roof. Rustwater needs a miracle, and Jonas wants to give it to them.
Jonas, with all his charm and chatter, convinces the town to attend his revival. It is there he can help the needy, heal the sick and answer their prayers for rain.
Jonas’ ostentatious sermon with all the bells and whistles from Broadway shows persuades the innocent that their salvation will prevail. Jonas and Jane relish in their spectacular plan to bilk the poor.
Jonas meets a crippled young boy Boyd, played by Lukas Haas, who shares his belief that God will make him walk again.
Jonas listens to him half-heartedly only for the sake of bedding the boy’s older sister Marva, played by the beautiful Lolita Davidovich. Marva scolds Jonas for his fraudulent tactics as another faith healer told her that her impaired brother lacks conviction. This strikes a nerve with Jonas.
Believers now come in droves for another night of faith healing, including Boyd. Jonas avoids “healing” Boyd, but the young believer is determined to receive Jonas’ special touch. Boyd drops his crutches and begins to take small steps toward the gigantic crucifix on stage. The roaring crowd grows silent. As Boyd touches the feet of Jesus, Jonas proclaims that this is truly a miracle. Word spreads about the healed crippled boy and soon camera crews, nonbelievers and religious enthusiasts come from all over.
Jane and the other crew are amazed that Jonas convinced the young boy to show his “act.” All the while, Jonas thinks Boyd duped him. As he starts to question his own faith, Jonas feels a bit of guilt for his lies and schemes.
Unable to cope, he leaves Jane and the revival and sets out for a new adventure. As he hitches a ride out of Rustwater, heavy rains fall onto the dusty small town. Whether Jonas believes that it was a stroke of luck or divine faith remains to be seen.