Disappointing Film Adaption of Luke 15’s “The Prodigal Son” Hits Theaters This Weekend

(system) #1

“Wayward: The Prodigal Son” is the latest Bible story on the big screen. With limited opening weekend screenings of the film in Northern California, I made sure to arrive early. However, with ten minutes until showtime, only five of us sat in the audience: my family of three and and a older couple in the back. A middle-aged couple, one of whom wore a silver cross on his shirt, snuck in right as the previews began.

"Wayward" is a modern-day retelling of the of famous parable of the son who asked his the father for part of his inheritance early. In the biblical account, the father obliges, and his son takes the money and squanders it in a distant country before finally returning back to his father’s estate. His father welcomes him with open arms, much to the disgust of the eldest brother who had remained faithfully by his father’s side. The father chastises the eldest brother saying: “But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.” (Luke 15:32 NIV)

The film adaptation told the story of two sons who worked for their father’s prosperous company. Tyler, the younger brother, started the film by spending the night in jail as the result of a bar fight. After bailing him out, the eldest brother fired Tyler for his selfish, irresponsible ways. Upset, Tyler went to his parent’s home and asked for his inheritance of $500,000, which they agreed to with sadness.

With a check in his pocket, Tyler traveled to Las Vegas to increase his wealth. Initially winning, Tyler ended his first night in his hotel room with Annie, a woman he had met at the Texas Hold ‘Em table. When he woke in the morning, Tyler did not remember the evening before, but Annie told him he had passed out when they arrived back at the room.

Through a series of unfortunate events, Tyler’s winnings disappeared from his hotel room. He returned to the casino to win more, and win he did! He continued winning until the casino management informed him he could no longer play because nobody wanted to compete against him. Desperate to win more money, Tyler agreed to play an off-the-strip game. The game was rigged by the same men responsible for stealing from his hotel room. Tyler lost everything and gained an additional $500,000 debt that he was required to pay back in 24 hours.

Annie, the previous night's prostitute, helped Tyler escape to her father’s farm where he hid for nine months. During his time on the farm, Tyler worked and attended church with Annie’s father.

Meanwhile, life back at home was not going well. Tyler’s father was dying from leukemia and Tyler knew nothing about it. His father and mother were desperate to have Tyler home, and even had him followed for a time to keep him safe. However, they lost track of him when he moved to the farm. Tyler's older brother, Will, regretted firing his brother Tyler. He tried calling him, but Tyler had thrown away his phone.

Eventually, the debt collectors came calling. They tracked Tyler back to the farm after threatening to kill Annie. She managed to get a message to Tyler, and he attempted escape. Just as Tyler was about to get captured and killed, Tyler’s dad arrived, having gotten word of his son’s troubles. He paid Tyler’s debt and brought him home.

The story of the prodigal son is an important parable in the Christian community. But too often, religiously-themed movies like this one fall flat. The plot was the most wayward thing about the film. It felt contrived and cliché. The leads were portrayed as a rich, beautiful, white family, with the exception of the jealous brother, whom director Rob Diamond deliberately depicted as less attractive. From the family's perfect skin to their unwavering love, the film offered no realism--nothing .

Like a lot of Christian films the acting felt weirdly melodramatic, perhaps driven, in part, by the corny, stilted dialogue. The best part of the film was a beautiful interlude depicting time passing on the farm and back home, set to music without dialogue. Despite Rob Diamond's best shot at making something significant out of the Prodigal narrative, "Wayward" left me disappointed.

For a listing of showtimes and locations, click here.

Rachel Logan is a writing intern for Spectrum.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/6400

(Elmer Cupino) #2

"He returned to the casino to win more, and win he did! He continued winning until the casino management informed him he could no longer play because nobody wanted to compete against him."

I’m sorry that the movie left you “disappointed.” At least if was true to it’s plot. As a matter of fact, I thought it was “too true” (SDA version) as it depicted themes of “LGT.” Tyler became the “perfect” gambler. I only wonder whether the movie director, producers or movie financiers are SDAs.


Yeah, I dont think I’ll be seeing this anytime soon. Not because of the acting or anything like that. Just doesnt seem like something (from the trailer) I’d watch. Anyway, for anyone would like to see the trailer.

(Thomas J Zwemer) #4

Hollywood is for sales and entertainment not exegesis.Tom Z

(Tom Loop) #5

Thanks for this review. I had thought of going to see it, but all the suspence is gone now that you tell what it’s all about.
It sounds that like you, I would have been disappointed. I do not like Hollywoods embellishment and turning biblical themes into entertainment abortions. But I do like films that get the theme right and are very moving, like FIREWALL, THE BOY IN THE STRIPPED PAJAMAS, AUGUST RUSH. THE ULTIMATE GIFT. Hollywood is all about entertaining people, seldom about the " moral of the story" themes.

(Bill Garber) #6

I haven’t seen the movie.

Could the film have done better by retelling the story through the eyes of the one who created the story; Jesus.

The preferred title might have been Steadfast.

This is the story of the Father.

This is the story of parenthood from the parent’s point of view.

This is not about someone who returned.

This is about someone who never turned his back.

This is about saving the world.

This is not about someone saving their soul.

Turning the Prodigal Son on its ear could have garnered some Christina outcry, like explaining why there is no ever-burning hell to the many who are strangely warmed by thoughts of its flames.

One wonders what the ticket potential would be for the Revelation 14 Three Angels Gospel Message; the Gospel that destroys Babylon?

I can see it now. The saints on the beach while those practicing personal DIY salvation are being rained on by their own sweat in the desert of check-list salvation; urged on by their children.

Just listen to the hue and cry by pastors preaching 100,000 sermons the Sunday before opening weekend.

Talk about word of mouth.

Back to reality.

This movie was written and directed by Rob Diamond, a Mormon … knowledge of which may contribute to understanding the intent of the story and perhaps the movie. http://www.imdb.com/name/nm1070766/bio?ref_=nm_ov_bio_sm

Reviewed by the Desert News last February, Sharon Haddock observed … "Wayward, which lead off the 2014 LDS Film Festival, is a nicely shot movie. The actors, for the most part, do a decent job.

And if you can get past some of the obvious and oft-used plot devices, it’s not hard to watch." http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865595940/Film-review-Wayward-The-Prodigal-Son-nicely-shot-a-little-unrealistic.html?pg=all

A lot of agreement on how little there seems to be here, it seems.

That said, some will not doubt be blessed.

(jeremy) #7

i will likely go and see the movie if it shows in calgary…i enjoyed and learned from “noah”, even though it differs vastly from the egw account…i don’t have problems separating fiction from the word of god…

(Frankmer7) #8

How about the biblical account?


(jeremy) #9

the egw account is the biblical account - amplified through the gifts of an artistic, inspired woman unconstrained by the convention of minimalism in moses’ day…

(Elaine Nelson) #10

The EGW version of Noah is also vastly different from the Genesis story. The movie is also amplified through the gifts of cinematic artistic expression and both are not biblical.

(jeremy) #11

the difference between the difference between egw and the bible and hollywood and the bible is gargantuan…egw takes the bible’s lead and amplifies the story in a way that retains the original account in the bible…the hollywood version of noah is noah in name only…had the movie been called juniper, some would have seen a few similarities with the biblical story of noah, but no-one would have insisted it was the same story…

(Winona Winkler Wendth) #12

A significant issue, here, is the nature of the “Hollywood” or commercial film and the nature of parable. The narrative arcs are different, to begin with, and so is pacing. Commercial films require certain kinds of information given at certain times and certain kinds of generative action or circumstances provided in ways that do not necessarily correspond to Biblical or legendary/mythic story structures. In other words, one doesn’t “make a movie out of a book”; one takes a story from a book or legendary source and then makes a movie derived from that story. Moving from one genre to another is fraught with challenges, always. The dialogue might be false, the acting might be mediocre, the production values less than excellent (or not); but the project, itself, was not a smart one, and purposefully didactic “art” is usually false and unsatisfying.

(Winona Winkler Wendth) #13

In many cases, one can say the same thing about evangelism . . .