"Left Behind" is rapture-fiction as a dull zombie movie where the living dead are nonbelievers. The Christian faithful have disappeared, all over the world.
That moment, 32 minutes into director Vic Armstrong’s film, is this remake’s lone grabber. A college coed (Cassi Thomson) loses her little brother in mid-hug — empty clothes, baseball hat, glasses and backpack tumble to the floor of the mall where she’s hugging him. The screaming starts and anarchy instantly sets in as nonbelievers start rifling through the purses of those taken and quickly move on to looting.
Meanwhile, coed Chloe’s airline pilot dad (Nicolas Cage) finds his alone time with that shapely stewardess (Nicky Whelan) interrupted when some of his passengers vanish. He ducks back into the cockpit and his co-pilot is gone. An empty uniform, a watch and ring are all that’s in his seat.
Buck Williams (Chad Michael Murray), an investigative reporter and passenger on the jet to London, loses his cameraman. In an ironically newsworthy coincidence, a weeping mom (Jordin Sparks) loses the daughter she was spiriting away, fleeing life with an abusive NFL player.
Buck starts questioning passengers — the angry dwarf (Martin Klebba), the Muslim everyone now suspects of something, a junkie who figures it’s a flashback.
And on the ground, frantic Chloe tries to get home through the abandoned cars and buses and dazed or demented survivors. Home is where Chloe expects to find the fundamentalist mother (Lea Thomson) whose proselytizing drove her away and her father into the arms of a willing stewardess.
"If she’s going to run off with another man," Dad cracks to Chloe in the prologue, "why not Jesus?"
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A little early mockery of the faithful is as close to "edgy" as this film, based on the Tim LaHaye-Jerry B. Jenkins novel, gets. There’s nothing pointed about it — no politics. The judgment here is more implied than overt — Muslims, philandering pilots, TV reporters and college kids aren’t getting into heaven. But there is one preacher left on duty.
But not even preacher man uses the R-word. No one in the movie says "rapture," or for that matter swears, and some SERIOUS swear-worthy phenomena is going down. It’s as if none of the nonbelievers has ever heard of "the rapture" or puts the pieces of the puzzle together.
It’s inoffensive, unless you take umbrage at the idea that the only people who know not to steal are true believers and all that keeps society from an instant meltdown are the faithful.
All this bland action remake (Kirk Cameron’s first Christian films were versions of "Left Behind") has to do is reunite father and daughter, to get that jet safely on the ground and for Captain Cage to get a refund for those U2 tickets he planned on taking sexy stewardess to. Because everybody knows that when the rapture comes, U2 won’t be around to fulfill their contract. "Left Behind," bigger budget or not, manages most of those without much excitement or mystery.
Review by Roger Moore, McClatchy Newspapers