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`Sin Eater' is not all-consuming

So much is wrong -- where to begin? This is no way to draw a faith-based audience.

February 10, 2007|William Lobdell | Times Staff Writer

An agonizingly slow pace. Cheesy special effects worthy of Ed Wood. An odd variety of 19th century Welsh American accents. Even the most nonjudgmental Christian would have a tough time not condemning "The Last Sin Eater," about a young Appalachian girl's quest to rid herself of a terrible sin.

It's the latest in a growing line of poorly made faith movies designed to capture at least some of the audience that flocked to "The Passion of the Christ."

Set in the 1850s, "The Last Sin Eater" has an interesting premise: the transformation of an immigrant village, with dark secrets, from paganism to Christianity.

The key pagan rite is performed by the mysterious Sin Eater (Peter Wingfield), who takes on the transgressions of the recently departed by eating bread and drinking wine (sound familiar?). But 10-year-old Cadi Forbes (played delightfully by Liana Liberato) has a sin so large that she can't wait to die before receiving the benefits of the Sin Eater. Feeling responsible for her younger sister's death, Cadi begs him to perform the ritual now. He does, but her burden isn't lightened.

Her sin is unconsumed.

Cue the friendly and fearless Man of God (a traveling preacher played by Henry Thomas) and you can figure out how the movie plays out.

Directed and co-written by Michael Landon Jr., "The Last Sin Eater" relies on stilted Old World dialogue that even Academy-Award winner Louise Fletcher, playing a wise grandmother, can't make believable. What's more implausible are the laughable special effects used in key scenes.

A suggested commandment for Fox Faith, the newly formed division of 20th Century Fox that promotes faith-based films, including "The Last Sin Eater": Thou shalt make quality movies.

Christians believe patience is a virtue, but they won't keep coming to the box office if the movies made for them are insultingly bad. It's time to repent.

"The Last Sin Eater." MPAA rating: PG-13 for thematic elements, and some intense sequences of violence. Running time: 1 hour, 40 minutes. In selected theaters.

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