"My card is American Express, and my new movie blows."
It's bad enough that director M. Night Shyamalan feels the constant need to rehash his breakthrough movie "The Sixth Sense" to diminishing returns, but does the rest of Hollywood have to follow suit?"Hide and Seek" has the same moody atmosphere and twist ending as Shyamalan's film. Australian director John Polson of "Swimf@n" fame (can we deport him?) and screenwriter Ari Schlossberg also manage to ape Stanley Kubrick's "The Shining," Martin Scorsese's "Cape Fear" and a few other more interesting scary flicks. While the two of them manage to copy camera angles or editing, they simply can't duplicate the chills.
For a movie that's supposed to make viewers' spines tingle, the only vibrations viewers will feel during "Hide and Seek" is the low rumble of people snoring.
Polson and Schlossberg manage to assemble a dream cast and then squander them on a sketchy story and a recycled plot. First rate character actors like Melissa Leo and Dylan Baker walk around with droopy looks in their eyes as if they were waiting to start work on a Todd Solondz or Hal Hartley flick once they'd finished their sentence here.
A committed but indifferent Robert DeNiro stars as a New York psychologist named David Calloway who moves Upstate to get away from the sorrow of his wife's death (played with negligible enthusiasm by Amy Irving).
David's young daughter Emily (Dakota Fanning) is understandably shaken, but she's beginning to worry her dad because she keeps telling him about her malevolent and seemingly invisible playmate Charlie. Whenever David discovers nasty messages written on his bathroom wall, Emily keeps blaming Charlie.
The unseen Charlie is doing everything he can to wreck David's budding relationship with a pretty local woman (Elizabeth Shue), and his attacks are getting more and more malicious and deadly.
Charlie's identity and even his existence are supposed to be a mystery, but alert viewers can grasp it pretty quickly (and certainly faster than any of the characters) because Schlossberg's cast and his imagination are too small.
Because the mystery isn't so mysterious, Polson and Schlossberg aggravate the resulting malaise by dragging out the conclusion even after the cat's out of the bag.
Speaking of cats, you know a thriller hasn't got much to offer if it resorts to screeching felines jumping out of closets. Most of the shocks are pretty tired and cheap. Furthermore, when the film is over, the attempted jolts prove to be nothing but red herrings. The swelling dissonant music and other clichés seem even hollower because they really don't lead up to anything greater.
It's as if Polson and Schlossberg had sat around randomly cutting out pages of better scripts and pasted the scraps together without figuring out how to make their borrowed tricks work. True, it's the sort of writing exercise that William S. Burroughs used to do, but Burroughs at least had the excuse that he was on drugs.
Fanning's performance is the only redeeming trait for "Hide and Seek." The other filmmakers could really use the sincerity and subtlety she brings to each role. In "I Am Sam," "Man on Fire" and "Uptown Girls," Fanning upstaged her much older and taller co-stars. It's about time she had a film that matched her performances.As for DeNiro, I'd rather seem him do another commercial than watch him waste both his time and mine on material that Steven Seagal would reject.