Quite a bit late as adaptations go, "The Celestine Prophecy" is a filmed version of James Redfield's wildly popular 1993 best seller (which I did read around the time of its release and, at this point, have no memory of.) The film stars Matthew Settle as John Woodson, a high school teacher at an inner city school who decides to venture to Peru on the advice of a friend to seek out 8 ancient scrolls that have just been found. Each scroll offers "insights" - deep thoughts that will allow humanity to further develop and gain a new understanding of the world.
Once John arrives in Peru, he quickly finds that the Catholic Church (lead by a local cardinal, played by Hector Elizondo, who apparently had some time off from being in Garry Marshall movies) doesn't want the release of the scrolls to happen, forcing John and a small band of fellow believers to go on the run in the search for the 9th scroll.
While the movie has several issues, the real downfall of the filmed version of "The Celestine Prophecy" is that the acting is simply terrible. Settle, who has to carry a lot of the movie, offers an exceptionally bland, wooden performance, showing very little emotion or interest in what's happening around him. I've thought Settle was decent in other films he's starred in, but he's truly a blank here. Thomas Kretschmann and Annabeth Gish (as fellow explorers) are somewhat better, but the film's acting still ranges from merely bad to "early Sunday morning infomerical" bad.
As for other issues, the problem with the screenplay, aside from some clunky dialogue, is that every aspect of what's going on in the story is s-p-e-l-l-e-d out for viewers. Instead of having the "insights" be revealed in an interesting way, we get characters having scenes where they stand around plainly explaining to each other exactly what's happening in the story - which brings the movie to a full stop.
Additionally, there are some visual effects to illustrate concepts in the film like "sharing energy", but the effects are primitive at best. The end credits of the film actually have the full text of the insights scroll up (shouldn't these have been explained fully by the movie that just ended?) before the full credits begin. Despite being filmed in Florida, Costa Rica and Puerto Rico, the film's visuals are nothing to write home about (despite being filmed in 2.35:1, the film's visuals look as if they were composed for basic TV.)
Ending with a teaser for a "10th insight" (the sequel to the first book is "The 10th Insight"), I can only hope any sequel to this film (if one actually is made) will be done with more care. This is supposed to be a bit of an adventure, but the movie is weighed down with excessive exposition, minimal character development and a slow pace. I can hardly believe that a book as wildly popular as "The Celestine Prophecy" was given this kind of B-movie treatment.
VIDEO: "The Celestine Prophecy" is presented by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen and 1.33:1 pan & scan (both are included on a dual-layer disc, with the different versions accessible from the main menu.) Image quality throughout is just fair, as sharpness and detail are inconsistent, with much of the movie looking noticably soft. Additionally, some minor edge enhancement and a few instances of artifacting are spotted. Colors look rather blown out at times and flat at others.
SOUND: The film's Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack remained tame throughout the show, with the surrounds kicking in only occasionally in order to provide some minor ambience or reinforcement of the score. Audio quality was fine, with clear dialogue, crisp effects and score.
EXTRAS: A 25-minute "making of" documentary that starts off with Redfield discussing the popularity of the book and how, despite offers, the time for a movie never felt right "until now". The actors chat about their thoughts on the film's "insights" and the production process. Clips and small talk pad out the running time and although there were a few decent tidbits, I felt like 25 minutes went by without much. We also get trailers for other titles from the studio, such as "The Da Vinci Code".
Final Thoughts: I'm not saying there's anything wrong with the spirituality within, but there's plenty wrong with "The Celestine Prophecy" as a movie - this is a badly acted, cheaply made and dull film that doesn't get across the ideas its trying to present and wraps it all up with an ending that seems goofy. The DVD presentation offers average image quality, decent audio and one major extra. Skip it.