Monday, July 11, 2011

A Decade of Dreck #58: The Celestine Prophecy

Charge Shot!!! is celebrating the end of the decade in the most masochistic way we know how - by watching and writing about the 100 worst movies of the last ten years as defined by film review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes. Click here to see RT's complete list, click here for more about the Decade of Dreck project, and click here to see all of the movies we've done so far.

As a bookseller, there are two types of people I loathe more than all others (the people who buy Amish romance novels I believe to be beneath my hatred): first are the Self-Help people. I really, really dislike having to show someone all the books about "getting motivated" and "dealing with difficult people" and "turning your life around". All I want to say to them is "This is a scam to dupe you out of your money. Get a hobby and stop being so fucking sad all the goddamn time." but of course, that's how you get fired.

Higher up on my shit list (okay, maybe somewhere below the old people who buy books about how the "Moslems are gunna impose Sharia law on America") are the New Age "spiritual" people. There's way too big a market for this sort of shit out there; my store only got rid of the "Crystals" sub-section in the New Age department last week. I already have a pretty dim view of religion in general, but I will say this for Christianity and the others, at least they have their shit together. New Age people are just wackos.

So it is with great delight that I was assigned this week's entry, the king of the Self-Help/New Age hill: a film adaptation of James Redfield's The Celestine Prophecy.

This thing's crazy and a fucking mess. Not like sexy but crazy, or fun but a fucking mess, it's just the worst of either of those two descriptions. The guy who played the most badass soldier in Easy Company on Band of Brothers stars as John Woodson, a teacher who gets laid off from his job for no reason, budget concerns or something. It's not important. All we know is that an administrator comes and tells him he's fired when he's playing basketball with some kids, because that's totally the guy you let go from the school.

Poor John reconnects with an old friend who without prompting tells him about some archaeological discoveries in Peru and "synchronicity" and shit. So on a whim, John realizes that it's his destiny to go to Peru and find out how to change his life via pseudo-Mayan (nevermind that the Maya did not actually live anywhere near Peru) mysticism and thinly veiled urgings for the film's viewers to buy a couple dozen of Redfield's books.

Apparently, the discoveries are nine "Insights" of a prophecy about the coming change in the world (it's basically the 2012 bullshit, but downplaying the death-and-destruction angle that sounds like much more fun). It all comes down to if you're nice to people instead of mean to people, the world will be a lot better. Everyone spends five minute monologues discussing the "giving" as opposed to "taking" of people's "energy". It is never fully explained and results in some really stupid looking sequences where John can actually "see" the "energy" in people via some terrible Photoshop filters.

All in all, it only served to remind me of this.

Also, there are some people trying to suppress the Prophecy because it's "dangerous". These include J├╝rgen Prochnow and a Latin American dictator straight out of a Joel Silver movie. We don't know why it's dangerous save that it will make people stop wanting to kill each other because they've learned to "give energy" instead of "taking energy". Basically, it's Redfield telling you that his Self-Help theories are so good that it could change the world instead of just asking your boss for a raise and spending more time with your nieces and nephews.

Also, there's a bunch of priests in this movie and an evil cardinal who becomes good at the end. It's all there to tell religious people that the New Age things aren't some weird pagan heresy but are instead a new way of understanding God. You don't want to offend your Christian readers! They spend a lot of money on books (what with that whole Johannes Gutenberg and whatnot)!

If this thing were well-acted, produced, or directed, it would still suck. But couple that with the psychobabble and snake oil of Redfield's "philosophy" and you have twin engines of destruction that are worthy of the dreaded double facepalm. The Celestine Prophecy is a B-movie that thinks (or at least wants you to think that it thinks so that it doesn't look like such a bald-faced attempt to rip you off of your life's savings) it will change the world, with makes it's fall all the more painful.

The Celestine Prophecy is ranked #55 on the Rotten Tomatoes Worst 100 list with 4% freshness. Its RT page can be found here.