Any positive expectations should be “Left Behind”

John Berk – News & Features Editor

Given the recent glut of Biblical films rushing to cinemas, it was only a matter of time before the best-selling novel by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins was remade.

Aiming to cash in on both the Christian movie wave and the apocalyptic movie frenzy, “Left Behind” is about as disingenuous as these films come (“Heaven is for Real” not withstanding).

Anyone involved in evangelical Christianity around the turn of the millennium is probably familiar with the Left Behind phenomenon.

The series is known for becoming a best-selling sensation which culminated in a trilogy of straight-to-video films starring Kirk Cameron. The story is based on a literal interpretation of the book of Revelation, and assumes a pre-tribulation rapture.

Photo courtesy of Leftbehind.com: Jordin Sparks, Cassi Thomson, Nicolas Cage, Chad Michael Murray and Nicky Whelan star in “Left Behind.”

This movie however, is focused strictly on the rapture. I went to this movie solely for the unintentionally funny moments; unfortunately, it wasn’t quite as bad as I hoped.

The main character is Rayford Steele, played by Nicolas Cage. Steele is a pilot whose wife (Lea Thompson in a heartfelt but underused bit part) has converted to Christianity and is assured that the rapture is bound to happen.

Steele and his daughter Chloe (Cassi Thomson) think she’s a religious nut. . . until they don’t. Trapped on a flight where dozens of people have disappeared, Rayford comes to realize he was wrong this whole time.

Meanwhile Chloe avoids looters and driverless vehicles. You think I’m joking, but that’s about it. Excluding one sequence where she climbs a bridge at sunset. At any moment you expect her to pose for senior photos.

So, the entirety of the movie is people on an airplane being scared and Chloe Steele running around gasping at things.

One person who remains stoic about the rapture is Buck Williams, played by Chad Michael Murray of “One Tree Hill” fame. He never really reacts to anything, but soullessly documents other people going crazy on the airplane.

One sequence with an electric toothbrush is worth noting for its absolute ridiculousness. Some other highlights are clothes falling from quite literally nowhere (were there flying children?), a badly photo-shopped family picture and a fairly aggressive call to buy Jesus merchandise.

Unfortunately we don’t get any hints about the crazy things to come in later books (giant statues coming to life, cities being bombed to smithereens, blades so sharp they are invisible). The most glaring omission from the film is anti-Christ superstar Nicolae Carpathia.

Nicolas Cage gives us a disappointing performance as well. Cage has a history of being genuinely good or entertainingly bad. Here he is sadly subdued, clearly there only to get a paycheck. There are no “Wicker Man” moments to be found.

Given that the ideal time for a big budget “Left Behind” movie was 10 years ago, and audiences have mostly grown in sophistication, the only way to take this remake is as “so bad it’s good” entertainment.

While the silliness is sometimes enjoyable (a particularly gratuitous explosion made me laugh out loud) it’s too boring to be consistently watchable.

My recommendation is to rent it and watch it with your snarkiest friends in the comfort of your living room. And if you try to take it seriously, well, good luck.