Spoiled American rich kid redeems himself in India

Cody Longo (left) who plays the lead role of Caden and Walid Amini who plays the role of Annika’s father in “Not Today” pose with pupils in India.

“Not Today”

Very Good (3 stars)

Rated PG-13 for mature themes

Running time: 103 minutes

Distributor: Lionsgate

Before Caden left, his mom (Shari Rigby) packed a Bible in his suitcase with a note tucked in the pages asking God to help her son appreciate his blessings while on the subcontinent. Fortunately, it doesn’t take long for that prayer to be answered.

For, upon landing, Caden experiences quite a cultural shock when he finds himself in the midst of abject poverty he never knew existed. And instead of being able to participate in the non-stop partying they’d planned, he ends up feeling guilty about all the suffering he’s surrounded by.

He specifically regrets having cynically refused to help a beggar with a little girl claiming to be starving. In fact, he becomes so haunted that he goes back to look for them, only to learn that Kiran (Walid Amini) had reluctantly sold Annika (Persis Karen) into slavery to survive.

Determined to reunite father and daughter, Caden decides to try to track down the seven-year-old, a search which leads to the ugly underworld of sex trafficking. There, he discovers that Annika’s freedom will come at considerable cost, since the pimp who had purchased her expects to make a tidy profit to part with her.

Thanks to cell phone technology, Caden can both cry on the shoulder of his empathetic girlfriend (Cassie Scerbo) back home and ask his dad (John Schneider) to wire him $20,000 fast. There’s no hesitation, when the request is for such a worthy cause, as opposed to underwriting another one of the reformed slacker’s trademark self-indulgences.

Thus unfolds “Not Today,” a compelling, modern morality play marking the noteworthy directorial debut of Jon Van Dyke. Without getting too heavy-handed, the faith-based cautionary tale does a decent job of delivering its sobering message about a widespread form of exploitation of millions, which no one ever talks about.

A searing indictment of India’s shameful caste system as a means of enslaving females based on the color of their skin.

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