So, we”ve gone from “Jesus Christ Superstar” to “Jesus Christ: Action Hero.” Just what we needed. “Left Behind: The Movie” is a weak attempt to create a spiritual thriller about Christianity and finding faith that seems more suited to be a movie of the week than a theatrical release.
The film stars Kirk Cameron (Mike Seaver of “Growing Pains”) and Brad Johnson (a “Troy McClure” type actor), who play reporter Buck Williams and commercial pilot Rayford Steele, respectively. But setting ridiculous porn names aside for a second, the film deals with the Rapture (in which all the faithful are taken up to Heaven) and the aftermath of the jarring and traumatic event. There”s a paranoid subplot concerning a United Nations/evil banker/globalization conspiracy that is just plain stupid, but its absurdity pales in comparison to the main plot, which includes a threat from a seemingly helpful man named Nicolai Carpathia. Gee, I wonder if he”s actually evil. It took a delicate touch to come up with that name. I guess they figured naming him Joey Anti-Christ would make it too obvious.
The film is barely deserving of the term “B-movie.” With acting that would make the worst soap opera hack cringe, the actors churn out dialogue as if they”re reading the script for the first time, and the cheesy, stylized piano music in the background doesn”t help much.
The film seems like an amalgam of a cheesy movie on the Sci-Fi channel and an after school special. It makes me long for the days of films like “Atomic Train.” God help us.
The message of the film couldn”t be less subtle. The heavy handed preaching and propaganda filled material is hopelessly transparent and confused. As the film opens, we hear Buck in a voice-over, “What does it matter what we think we know in the end, there”s no denying the truth.” When Rayford comes home to find that his family has vanished right out of their clothes, he breaks down in tears, and as he falls to his knees in his greatest moment of sorrow and need, what does he find? the Good Book. As Rayford, the ex-sinner, finds his new faith, he takes on this creepy, calm demeanor that makes him seem freshly lobotomized.
When Christian production company Ten Cloud Pictures decided to release the film, they released the DVD and VHS versions before the theatrical version. The logic behind this move is rooted in the hope that all Christians (and followers of the popular series of books on which the film is based) would rent it, talk about it and cause a fervor, making the theater opening a huge success. Hey, proselytizing seems to work for the religion, why not for a cheeseball action movie?
The DVD version of the movie contains gems like music videos of the horrible songs featured in the film and previews for other films based on the book of revelations. Revelation based movies with diverse titles like “Judgement,” “Tribulation,” and best of all, “Revelation.”
There is also a behind the scenes documentary and a special video message from Kirk Cameron in which he tells how great the film is. As he blankly looked into the camera, I kept waiting to see the shadow of the hypnotist”s watch moving across his face. Hey, Kirk, we all loved “Growing Pains” now walk away.