Left Behind: The Movie

“Left Behind: The Movie,” based on the best-selling novel about the Bible-predicted end times, is first and foremost a missionary tract for evangelicial Christianity.

Sure, it starts out being more than that. Millions of people — children, mostly — have disappeared sans special effects, leaving behind their clothes and loved ones. No one can explain it, except the Bible-believers, who understand that it’s the rapture. The righteous have been taken away to heaven, while the rest have been left to endure the rise of the Antichrist and all the bad stuff he has in store for mankind.

News reporter Buck Williams (Kirk Cameron), meanwhile, is putting together clues that will lead him to the aforementioned Evil One. It’s a plot that will be familiar to those who already believe a united European currency and the United Nations are insidious; in this case, the U.N. is part of a plot to control the world’s food supply.

The ideas are occasionally interesting — what WOULD it be like if people around you suddenly started vanishing? — but they are ruined by a heavy-handed religious tone. This is most evident in the story of airline pilot Ray Steele (Brad Johnson), who always made fun of his wife’s religious convictions but who isn’t laughing now that she’s with God and he’s stuck with his rebellious daughter (Janaya Stephens) here in mortality. He has an overnight conversion and is soon proselytizing in an embarrassing manner, just like the movie.

I’m in no position to judge the theology of “Left Behind,” but I am in a position to judge its quality as a film. And as a film, it’s terrible. The direction is strictly movie-of-the-week, and the dialogue is ridiculous and trite. The acting is bland, the characters are lifeless. There is no reason to continue watching the movie, except maybe to find out how the characters are going to deal with realizing the reason they’re still here is that they weren’t righteous enough.

Using a movie to present your religious views is fine. But having good intentions doesn’t excuse you from having to make a quality film. A lot of those people who were left behind had good intentions, too, and look where it got them.

D+ (; PG-13, some violence.)