The new Left Behind film is for the religious and by the religious, with bright colors and inspirational soft rock. But the story itself tracks the nonbelievers left behind on an ordinary afternoon when God blips a few million chosen people to Heaven. What remains on Earth -- and in the sky, where adulterous Captain Rayford Steele (Nicolas Cage) is piloting a plane of saints and sinners -- is chaos, confusion and regret.
While the captain's religious wife (Lea Thompson) is immediately zapped, plenty of nice nonbelievers are left, including the captain's estranged daughter and our heroine, Chloe (Cassi Thomson); a newscaster porntastically named Buck Williams (Chad Michael Murray); and even, embarrassingly, the local priest (Lance E. Nichols).
Perhaps to appeal to the nondevout, or at least not frighten them off, this remake has half the religion and half the plot of the 2000 Kirk Cameron cornball classic, reducing the Biblocalypse into a straightforward disaster movie: Can Captain Steele safely land his plane when the Eastern seaboard is in shambles?
Cage is uncommonly calm -- he's practically the voice of reason. Helming a doomed jet, he delivers lines such as "Mayday mayday" as though he's asking a waitress to refill his coffee.
Alas, he has robbed the irony-attuned audiences of their only reason to go. And so the Christian filmgoing audience will remain as insular as it has been for years, only semi-preaching and semi-pleasing to the pre-converted, such as those who confessed to Left Behind's message board that they feared God would rapture them before they'd have a chance to see the movie. He hasn't. The Lord works in mysterious ways.