Left Behind

“The other night I dreamt of knives, continental drift divide, mountains sit in a line, LEONARD BERNSTEIN!!” Academy Award winner Nicolas Cage, Chad Michael Murray, Jordin Sparks and Lea Thompson star in the best-seller adaptation, Left Behind.

Left BehindCast of Characters:
Rayford Steele – Nicolas Cage
Cameron “Buck” Williams – Chad Michael Murray
Chloe Steele – Cassi Thompson
Hattie Durham – Nicky Whelan
Shasta Carvell – Jordin Sparks
Irene Steele – Lea Thompson

Director – Vic Armstrong
Screenplay – Paul LaLonde & John Patus
Based on the novel Left Behind by Tim LaHaye & Jerry B. Jenkins
Producer – Michael Walker & Paul LaLonde
Rated PG-13 for some thematic elements, violence/peril and brief drug content

While piloting a flight back home, Rayford Steele (Nicolas Cage) and his crew and passengers are stunned beyond belief when many onboard, without warning, suddenly disappear. Their fears are compounded when they learn that this vanishing, an event known as “The Rapture”, not only happened on their flight, but also throughout the entire world.

God help us all… oh, wait. Never mind. Good luck with that.

As Rayford fights on to find his left behind daughter Chloe (Cassi Thompson), journalist Buck Williams (Chad Michael Murray) tries to put the pieces together of everything that’s going on.

I honestly believe that when God sends the wicked to hell, they’ll be forced to watch this slow and tedious exercise in torture on repeat. You could honestly have Adam Sandler read the entire Mosaic law in his Little Nicky voice and it would somehow be more engaging and less annoying than this surprisingly green-lit effort.

Congrats to this film for making God’s Not Dead look like Ben-Hur. That says a lot since even God himself forsook the former film.

So, yeah, I hated this movie. Not ’cause it’s a Christian-themed movie or anything, far from it, but ’cause as a Christian myself, I just feel so ashamed that this amateur pile of crap is apparently the best my fellow Christians can come up with. We must be masochists too, ’cause they keep peddling drivel like this non-stop. Everything from the direction, writing, acting, special effects, editing, scoring (not so much a score, but just audio clips from some youth group singspiration), and production design screams piss-poor and cheap. I might as well just assume that the gaffers and caterers dropped the ball here as well.

Even the poster for this sucks.

This isn’t a bad premise for a film by any means (HBO’s The Leftovers also deals with a Rapture-like event). In good filmmaking hands, this could be a solid thriller that combines elements of mystery, political conspiracy and how a worldwide event like this would affect families torn apart by it. In fact, one of the most frustrating things this movie does is completely waste an intriguing premise that deals with Rayford’s wife Irene’s (Lea Thompson in a throwaway role) conversion to Christianity conflicting with her daughter and husband’s non-belief. How would something like that affect the family? Well, we don’t know ’cause all we get is a half-assed conversation about it between Rayford and his daughter, and that’s it.

Left Behind reeks of laziness. You’d think that an event so cataclysmic it strikes fear and panic throughout the entire world would be thrilling to see on the big screen, but here it just shows how you should never ever take for granted any good performances you can get from your extras. Bland character expositions (ranging from a football star’s wife, someone that may or may not be Muslim, a drug addict and a midget with a serious attitude problem) are shoddily handled, the “message” tries to be both watered-down (an attempt to reach a broader audience probably) while somehow still aiming to pound it in your head anyway, and the dialogue is so horribly cringe-inducing, it would make the Psalmist King David impale himself with a sword.

What’s even worse is that Nicolas Cage (the Good Lord gives him Joe and he thanks him by doing Rage and this film afterward) dials his performance down to zero. Either he’s strung out on sleeping medication, thinking about that massive paycheck (which I guarantee was most of this film’s $16 million budget, considering how cheap everything looks) he’s getting, which will just get garnished by the IRS anyway, or just doesn’t care anymore. If anything, we could’ve at least gotten Nic Cage having another wildly manic episode amidst all the suck that makes up everything else in this film.

Alas, it must not have been meant to be.

The good news is that Jordin Sparks has a talent for singing, which she can comfortably fallback on since her acting is atrocious. And by atrocious, I dont just mean Razzie level atrocious. I mean her performance could cause all the armies of the world to descend upon the Valley of Megiddo in one final assault that will have all the rivers of earth running red with the blood of the slain masses. Then the vultures will drop from the sky and pick the rotting flesh off the bones of the dead.

Yeah, it’s that bad.

By the film’s climax, the film falls apart into unintended hilarity. It’s bad enough that it takes over an hour (which felt like ten) for Nicolas Cage to deduce that this is indeed the Rapture by noticing that just three people that disappeared onboard the plane have either a Bible or the words “BIBLE STUDY” written in a notepad schedule, and it’s – EUREKA!!!! Once Cage slaps a big confirmed on another National Treasure mystery, it’s up to his daughter to clear out a mile-long runaway (wide enough to handle a commercial airliner) with a beater pickup truck, then get daddy’s attention – who’s probably thousands and thousands of feet up in the air – by flashing her brights at him.

Hey, I’ll be the first to shout from the rooftops how good Sylvania bulbs are, but seriously?

Overall, I had to question who exactly was director Vic Armstrong making this for. Non-Christians will think it’s too preachy. Christians will think it ain’t preachy enough, and fans of the book series will be completely turned off by the poor source adaptation (in fairness, the books aren’t that great anyway). This isn’t a Left Behind film. This is a cheap Airport knockoff, with Jesus as its co-pilot, that omits a large portion of the first book from the apocalyptic series.

Essentially, no one wins here.

Eventually, my mind began to hearken back to the early-Christian martyrs. Peter was crucified upside down. Stephen was brutally stoned to death. Matthew was dismembered with an axe. Doubting Thomas was impaled with spears and Paul was stoned, shipwrecked, beaten and eventually beheaded. They’re just the tip of the iceberg. None of them, though, had to sit through Left Behind.

I envy each and every one of them for getting off so easy.

Comically inept in every possible way, Left Behind fails as a faith-based film, a disaster movie, and even as a middle school film experiment. There are actually two positives that came out of this film. One, it compelled me to be more charitable by passing around a collection plate for Nicolas Cage at my next meeting, so that he no longer has to star in garbage like this. Two, and the big one, if there’s any hope in reuniting the factions of heaven and hell, it’s Left Behind – a film so bad that both God and the Devil would heartily admit it sucked.

I give Left Behind an F (0 stars).

REVIEWS COMING LATER NEXT WEEK…

10/6/14          What the Hell Were They Thinking?!
10/7/14          Benjamin’s Stash
10/9/14          The Guest
10/10/14        Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day
10/11/14        Dracula Untold
10/11/14        The Judge

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