Good God almighty: Not since Edward D. Wood Jr. unleashed a flotilla of paper-plate UFOs on beautiful downtown Burbank has there been a movie as stem-to-stern inept as this adaptation of the bestselling Christian novel series by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins. It’s a bigger-budget ($15 million) reboot of an already existing trilogy of straight-to-video films starring former child star-turned-religious evangelist Kirk Cameron. And by about ten minutes in, I was ready to shout “Come back, Kirk, all is forgiven!”
The plot, for those blissfully unaware: A bunch of folks with porn star names like Rayford Steele (Nicolas Cage) and Buck Williams (Chad Michael Murray) are among those left behind when the Rapture occurs and the Big Man calls all true believers upstairs. Doubters and sinners are left on Earth to suffer through a century or so of dark times and the rise of the Antichrist. But more pressing matters first—cheating hubby Rayford is the pilot of a crippled jetliner and he can only land it with the help of his estranged daughter Chloe (Cassi Thomson) who’s kinda-sorta got a thing for investigative journalist Buck.
This is bloody looney tunes, but let’s admit that there can be something seductive about a fervently articulated viewpoint that’s different from your own. All it requires is some modicum of competent expression: Left Behind can’t even bother with the A-to-B basics of moviemaking. The effects work is sub-Sharknado and scenes that should be taking place at night happen in broad daylight (and vice-versa). Almost every dialogue exchange includes some kind of stilted pause that a good editor would have trimmed. As for the score, with its Kenny G-esque sax wails, methinks Satan did some ghost composing.
And that's not even mentioning what must be the most paycheck-cashing Cage performance to date. When Rayford grasps that the Rapture has happened by glancing at the datebook of one of his disappeared stewardesses (“Bible Class!” written in girly-girl cursive is all the proof he needs), the actor’s sunken grimace is a study in sheer career exhaustion and desperation. Left Behind has all the makings of a midnight-movie staple, though its incompetence is finally more depressing than pleasurable. Anything that falls this short of praising the heavens is something to eternally bemoan.
Follow Keith Uhlich on Twitter: @keithuhlich
Cast and crew
Chad Michael Murray