Lew Wallace's 1880 novel "Ben-Hur: A Take of the Christ," one of the 19th century's biggest best-sellers, has been the basis for two classic Hollywood films.
There was Fred Niblo's 1925 version, starring Ramon Novarro, and the one everyone knows, the William Wyler version from 1959, with Charlton Heston in the title role.
At the start of the film, Judah Ben-Hur (Jack Huston) is a wealthy Jewish prince, living in splendor in Roman-occupied Judea.
In place of the story's spiritual element, the movie concentrates on Judah's relationship with his childhood friend, Messala (Tony Kebbell).
Add in the fact that Kebbell is a much more forceful screen presence than Huston, who plays the title role as almost guileless, and one really has to wonder about the movie's strategy.
Specifically, it has Morgan Freeman off to the side - wigged within an inch of his life as a wealthy African merchant - shouting instructions to Ben-Hur as he rides by.
[...] though I wouldn't swear to it, the movie seems to leave an impression that Ben-Hur actually hears him, over the roar of the crowd and the sound of galloping horses.
Filmmakers don't have to be religious, but they really should fake it if they're going to make a movie like this.