A few days ago, Eric Hovind posted a trailer for a new movie, released by his Creation Today Ministry, called “Night at the Creation Museum.”
With a trailer like that, I had to believe the full movie was just going to be an atheist’s dream, full of easily mockable bits. How could it be anything besides that?!
The movie was clearly a riff (I wouldn’t call it a parody) on “Night at the Museum,” the film in which Ben Stiller plays a night-time security guard at the American Museum of Natural History only to find out the exhibits come to life.
This version of the movie was no different. Hovind plays a security guard who somehow gets a job at the Creation Museum without knowing what they believe or what he’s guarding. Over the course of one night, he learns all about the “truth” of biblical literalism.
With a premise like that, you know I had to watch the whole thing when it premiered yesterday. Now you can see it too.
I’ll be honest: I fully expected to laugh my way through the whole thing as I would any other low-budget, pro-Creation propaganda film.
And yet it wasn’t the worst thing I’ve ever seen. There were some cringe-inducing moments, sure, but mostly, my feelings went nowhere. It’s not good enough to praise even on its own merits, but it’s not awful enough to hate-watch either.
Consider the quality: For a small crew filming everything on their (non-iPhone) phones, it was pretty impressive! What about the acting? It wasn’t great… but even that seems unfair to point out since no one here was claiming to be an actor. (Save those criticisms for Kirk Cameron.) These were just Christians trying to put something together. It’s hard to get mad about that. It’s a lot easier to poke fun at Kevin Sorbo in God’s Not Dead because he obviously thinks he’s the best actor on the set.
If there’s any real criticism here, it’s that the movie goes wrong in the same way all Christian propaganda films go wrong: It just can’t escape the preachiness. And since it’s a short film without much substance, they bludgeon you over the head with the message.
Instead of showcasing more creativity with the premise, the “Night at the Museum” storyline is just a vehicle for a series of short, dull lectures on why evolution must be false. It’s not just the misinformation that’s the problem, though; those segments lack any attempt at humor or nuance.
At one point, for example, we come across a display that tells the horrific story of a short Black man who was featured in a “human zoo” exhibit over a century ago. We’re told that’s what “evolution leads to”… as if acknowledging our shared ancestry with apes is somehow an endorsement of slavery or colonialism.
If that’s supposed to be a fair or valid argument against evolution, then it’s a sign that Creationists have nothing valid to work with.
Similarly, there’s a two-minute discussion on why God had to poof the universe into existence, which the security guard just magically accepts in a matter of seconds. He just as quickly accepts that dinosaur fossils are only a few thousand years old and the result of the Great Flood, along with the argument that David and Goliath were actual people.
Even propaganda films typically try to justify their misinformation; this one doesn’t bother. In that sense, they know their audience. It’s not the sort of people who can handle more than one thought at a time.
And then there’s this clip. Don’t ask me to explain it.
Listen: If the movie had more scenes like that, at least we’d be talking about it for a while. Instead it’ll largely be forgotten by next week. That’s because, while the film won’t make anyone a Creationist, it doesn’t even work for a Christian audience as an endorsement of Creationism.
It’s not a showcase for the exhibits in the museum because we barely saw them. (A few brief glimpses of animatronic dinosaurs just isn’t impressive these days.) It’s not an argument for Creationism because they barely spend any time doing that — and even when they did, it was on the most basic Creationism 101 topics familiar to everyone, not on the more unique exhibits there. (Why go to a fancy restaurant when you only want to taste the appetizers?)
Finally, if the main character is a night-time security guard who falls asleep during his first shift — and who doesn’t even know where he’s working at until about a third of the way into the film — what does that tell us about the Creation Museum’s target audience? Of course you can convince someone like that to believe anything. Give me someone who actually understands science and then let’s see what happens. Now that would be a more interesting movie.
If this was a final project for a high school film class, maybe it’d get a decent grade for effort. Beyond that, though, there’s not much to it.
So, naturally, there’s going to be a sequel.
“Night at the Ark Encounter” premieres next Wednesday. I’m not joking. That’s actually happening. (Because it wouldn’t be a Christian movie without a sequel no one was clamoring for.)
Quick tangent: A lot of attention gets paid to Kent Hovind, Eric’s Creationist father. Kent is a tax cheat and domestic abuser who’s just plain slimy. Eric is an evangelical Christian who believes what he believes about the origins of the Earth and wants to share it. The two of them work separately. It would be deeply unfair to treat them as carbon copies of each other. Just remember that whenever you’re commenting.