Starring: Jack Huston, Morgan Freeman, Toby Kebbell, Ayelet Zurer, Denise Tantucci, Nazanin Boniadi (Rated M – 125 min).
As Annie Lennox once sang, Why? It is preposterous to consider, even in an age of remakes or updated imagining of older movies for a new generation, who in the world of studio decision makers thought it was a good idea to throw over $100 million to recreate a rendering of ‘The tale of the Christ’ with Russian director of Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter, at the helm. Not the worst film of the year by any means although every movie mistake possible seems to be on show here.
There is a reason the well known saying suggests something is Bigger Than Ben Hur, the 1959 Charlton Heston three-hour-plus biblical epic remains the golden year of Hollywood classic’s which many films are compared, winner of 11 Academy Awards, a remarkable feat only equaled at this point by Titanic (1997). The promise of gladiators in combat and a grand chariot race finale may spark some interest for seasoned cinema goers, however comparisons to the legendary original are simply unavoidable.
Jack Huston (nephew of Angelica and grandson of the late revered director John Huston) tries hard to fill the extremely large shoes of Charlton Heston as Jerusalem Prince Judah Ben Hur who is falsely accused of treason and ripped away by the Romans from his home and family only to be put into slavery.
The faith based journey takes place over many years involving miracles although ironically, a miracle cannot save this lumbering rummage of mistreated material. Huston seems to be trying but the material lets him down, continuous efforts from co-stars such as wonderous Nazanin Boniadi in the pivotal role of Esther, while there are some powerful moments and slight signs of fresh ideas to mix things up but mostly this turns out to be a misinterpreted mistake.
Some may consider silky voiced actor Morgan Freeman as God, he did play the titular role in Bruce Amighty and ill concieved sequel Evan Almighty. However when this amazing thespian shows up in Ben Hur sporting out of control dreadlocks when not adjusting a stupid beret type hat which keeps falling off, all manner of seriousness goes out the cinema door, along with the attention of half the audience.
Shane A. Bassett