At the Movies: 'Left Behind'


Wednesday, January 31st 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6


The makers of the evangelical Christian film ``Left Behind'' boast that it has a profound message.

But to those who don't snap up the best-selling End Time novels by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins, from which the movie is adapted, it feels more like a revenge fantasy that chronicles the agony others suffer when God draws some of his followers into heaven.

And not a well-made fantasy either.

The point of ``Left Behind,'' adapted from the first in the series of books, is that lack of faith in Jesus will cost you when God finally decides to settle accounts.

Anyone hoping for a serious exploration of faith and the consequences of such decisions should look elsewhere. This is B-movie pap, a weak proselytizing device masquerading as a movie.

``Left Behind'' made a straight-to-video debut last year as a promotional tool, and is getting a theatrical release now to reach a wider audience.

It shows people being snatched up to heaven while driving speeding cars or handling heavy machinery. Babies and small children, regardless of faith, are snapped up by God, too. Their parents are left clutching empty baby carriages.

Aside from the potboiler plot and production values that barely compare to a syndicated TV drama series, the movie has a villain and some supporting characters who couldn't be more over-the-top if they were played by Peter Lorre on methamphetamine.

The heroes, meanwhile, are all shoulder pads and earnest chin-scratching. Kirk Cameron stars as Buck Williams, a reporter for a news channel called GNN. Brad Johnson co-stars as Rayford Steele, a grouchy airline pilot who resents his wife's preachy friends.

Although both are depicted as good guys, they are ``left behind'' because they're not religious. They eventually change and join with a group of others who believe they will get a second chance at heaven by battling the Antichrist.

Viewers aren't told the Antichrist's identity until the end of the movie, but it's painfully obvious. He might as well wear a red bodysuit and carry a pitchfork.

Directed by Vic Sarin and produced by Cloud Ten Pictures, it's rated PG-13 for violence. Running time: 95 minutes.

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Motion Picture Association of America rating definitions:

G — General audiences. All ages admitted.

PG — Parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children.

PG-13 — Special parental guidance strongly suggested for children under 13. Some material may be inappropriate for young children.

R — Restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

NC-17 — No one under 17 admitted.