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Noah's Ark (1999)



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Noah's Ark, a two part made-for-TV movie, was billed as "a motion picture event," which, these days, just means, "a made-for-TV movie." It's an event all right. A rigorous exercise in drivel and irresponsible offensiveness, served with sides of corn, cheese, and heaping scoops of saccharine. The movie is not only stupid and thoughtless, but it's also insulting to God and anyone who believes in him. Actually it's insulting to anybody in possession of at least one neuron.

The movie opens in Sodom. A bunch of people have a war wrestle in the mud. A couple of random killings take place, and someone announces that the war is over. So everybody goes home and parties. From the look of it, they do this every day, just for kicks. Well, they're supposed to be evil, evil enough for God to have to destroy, but perhaps the filmmakers could have thought of a more convincing way to portray their sin? Never mind. This complaint would turn out to be a minor one by comparison.

Noah lives in Sodom and is apparently the only good person there -- and if you're trying to figure out why this doesn't mesh with what you remember from Sunday School, it's because Sodom and Gomorrah existed hundreds of years after the flood. The first hour tells the story of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, and how Noah, his family, and his friend Lot escape the city, and how Lot's wife looks back against orders, only to have a fiery meteor hit her right in the face and turn her to a pillar of salt. All this occurs in the first hour and has no impact whatsoever on the rest of the story. Lot does show up again later, after having turned into a pirate, and tries to take over the ark -- but I'm getting ahead of myself. The point is, there was absolutely no reason to paste in and out-of-place Bible story to the beginning of this one. They just wanted to fill up time, I guess. I know how it could have been spend better. Developing actual characters or an intelligent moral theme.

The dialogue, incidentally, is atrocious. Noah spends the whole movie looking pensive and intones banal dialogue like he were reading some literary work so great he dare not embellish it with feeling lest he soil it with his own unworthy personality. Noah's wife, as one of my readers points out, sounds like June Cleaver, even when delivering lines like, "The Lord destroyed them because of their wickedness." God's dialogue is pretty silly too, but even worse is the voice it's delivered in -- supposedly he speaks in Noah's voice, but somehow he sounds a whole lot less divine than even Noah.

At any rate, they journey a long way, and God tells them to build an ark. They work on it for a while, and then God finishes it up for them, just because. A bunch of animals tromp through the village and board the ark (even lobsters, that don't need to; mules, which are sterile; and both peacocks are male). The rains start to fall, and Noah instructs his three sons to go fetch their girlfriends -- no, they aren't yet married, as they are in the Bible, and I can only guess that's because this way it's easier to include some innuendo in their interaction. At any rate, they go down to the village and take back their girlfriends, one of whom refuses to go without her parents. The girl's mother urges her to go, without making any attempt to be included in the voyage herself. But ultimately the guy has to sock her in the mouth. Hmmm. If we're wiping out evil here, let's dump whichever son that was and give his ticket to the girl's obviously selfless mother.

So everyone's on the ark. "Raise the gate!" Noah orders while standing on it. The floods rise. Suddenly, a peddler paddles up. He's in a little boat cart thing, and all his wares are hung around the sides from hooks. How on earth did he just happen to be equipped with a boat? He tries to sell stuff to Noah and his family, noting certain items that are "on special this week." Noah asks how they could pay him, saying that they don't have any money. "Nobody does," the peddler says. What? Who?? By now aren't Noah, his family, and this stupid peddler the only people left in the world? No, and we find out who else soon after. Yes, apparently the bulk of the angry villagers are still alive. They survived, apparently, by building ships before the flood waters had gotten too high to work. Wow. Too bad they don't last long enough to pass their shipbuilding skills down to future generations.

They try to take over the ark, but God wipes them out -- not until after a "rousing" battle scene, of course, during which Noah's wife throws "bread rolls from yesterday" at them. Then some romantic tension occurs. One of the sons and his girlfriend kiss. Noah slides onto the scene like Kramer from Seinfeld and hisses, in his only excitedly delivered line, "You were kissing!! You were kissing!!" Er, yeah, so? We find out later why this is bad. God has apparently told Noah, off screen, that there's to be no "procreation" while they're on the ark. Otherwise, Noah says, they'd be overrun with babies. Egad. How long do they think they're going to be on it?

Then God announces to Noah that he's not so sure he's going to save Noah after all, and he's going to go away to think about it. Uh huh. Restlessness occurs, and Noah's sons fear they are drifting in circles. What? Who cares? Where were they expecting to go? How would they even know? To make sure, they dump a crate of drinks overboard (it floats!), and when they encounter it days later, they know they're drifting in circles. Hello?? Everything's drifting! Wouldn't the ark and the crate be drifting in the same direction? And again, what the heck difference does it make? Noah's sons seem to think it matters. "Thanks to your idiocy," one accuses, "we're going round in circles! In circles!!"

God comes back from thinking and announces he's going to wipe out the ark. Noah shudders and shakes like he's weaving a magic spell, puts his fingers to his eyes to hold the tears back, then dances a little jig. God laughs and changes his mind. Then the floods subside, everybody gets out, and God makes a covenant with Noah. "I'm perfect, but I can be wrong," he says and vows never to destroy the world like that again. The end.

The above plot synopsis should illustrate two separate and distinct points. One, the film is nonsensical and incompetent, utterly devoid of intelligence, continuity, and inspiration. The film is wretched by conventional filmmaking standards, regardless of your religious beliefs.

Two, the film is sacrilegous, portraying God as an indecisive, feeble, spiteful being unworthy of our least attentions let alone praise. Anyone who believes in God has a responsibility to be offended by this hateful tirade. The filmmakers have turned this event into humanistic bile. Too lazy to be faithful to the book of Genesis and explore the moral rationale behind the act -- admittedly a difficult topic to grasp -- the writers have taken the easy way out. Rather than try to comprehend why God did this, they instead mold God into a being that would do so for no good reason, then later apologize for it and admit he was wrong. Regardless of one's belief in God, the former would have made a more interesting film anyway. Even if they were wrong, at least some original ideas would have been presented as food for thought.