by Chris Parry
Weak. That's about all you could say about a film that doesn't know whether it wants to be political, dramatic, scary or even a movie. Godsend, the first real attempt by Hollywood to put the ethics of cloning into the mainstream movie consciousness, cuts and runs in every possible way. Aside from one piece of ridiculous symbolism (ooh, a burning bible!), it shies away from anything of impact, instead rolling out yawnworthy performances from a cast that should know better, in a film that was so by-the-numbers that they filmed FIVE (count 'em) five different endings.You know, if you don't know what your ending is supposed to be before you start filming a movie, you really need to just stop and have a good think. But that's exactly what the makers of Godsend didn't do - instead they shot five endings and, no doubt, test screened them all to see which one of the five (all of them awful) worked better with an audience. And without any thought that they'd be giving this fact away, all five endings made the DVD release. Clever!
"Godless. God damn. Good God, doesn't anyone know how to turn on a light?"
So Paul and Jessie Duncan (Greg Kinnear and Rebecca Romijn) are the coolest parents of an 8-year-old in the world. They live in a building so huge that their kid, Adam (Camero Bright) has a bedroom larger than my entire apartment (on a teacher's salary, no less!), they hump regularly (as is shown by the always-present prelude-to-sex scene that you have to have by law in any movie with Rebecca Romijn involved, generally involving her wearing a T-shirt with no bra - not that I'm complaining), and dad's SUCH a great teacher that when he's mugged in the street, the mugger (a former student) says "he's cool... best teacher I ever had.." Aww, peace out, esse. Thanks for the math.
Oh, and I nearly forgot. Adam's mom is not just supermodel beautiful, she's also a successful photographer, which is not in any way weird, because every single female role that comes out of the Hollywood system is either:
A: A magazine editor or a famous playwright (see 13 Going on 30, Something's Gotta Give).
B: An art gallery boss (see What Dreams May Come)
C: A photographer/reporter (see Godsend, Sky Captain, Superman)
D: A famous scientist (see The Peacemaker, The Saint, Mimic)
E: A hooker (see anything written by Joe Eszterhas)
There are no other women alive in the Hollywood world but those women mentioned above. All the men, on the other hand, are either cops, wacky criminals, mafioso, teachers or hitmen. It's like the law or something. In Hollywood, nobody sells insurance. Nobody works in Burger King's drive-thru. Nobody delivers your paper unless they yell something like "I want my two dollars!" over and over again.
Anyway, so the perfect family are busted up when their kid dies in a traffic accident that you can see coming about ten minutes before it happens because the director keeps telling us it will. He gives us spooky music, seemingly pointless slow shots of the kid playing in the street, a bunch of close-ups of his mother feeling like something's not quite right, and then - shock me! - a car goes out of control. Yawn.
So the kid eats license plate, the parents get depressed, and then Dr Robert De Niro shows up and says he's been playing with cloning for a while and he thinks he can give these people their child back. Cue the usual angst, "what are the moral implications", daddy wants nothing to do with it, mommy wants her child back, so of course mommy wins.
And they name the new child... Adam. Ew! Aside from the obvious 'Adam and Eve' connotations that the writer is clumsily trying to put out there, how could you name your kid after an already dead son? That's just gross! "Hey corpse... I mean, Adam... wanna go out for ice cream?"
Adam, meanwhile, is a crazy kid. Something's not right in his head, and we're supposed to be worried that he might flip out and kill his folks in some sort of psychotic rage fueled by visions of dead kids, only we know he won't because the film is ***PG-13!*** How scary can a movie be if it's okay for 13-year-olds? When Adam grabs an axe, anyone who has seen the warning of "violence including frightening images, a scene of sexuality and some thematic material" knows that there's no reason to cover their eyes - at all.
You might want to cover your ears though, because some of this dialogue is of the dumbest variety going. It struck me several times throughout this film that, whoever read this script and said to Robert DeNiro, "this would be a good film for you to do," shbould be fired on the spot, because it's just plain awful. There's nothing of worth here, no great stance on cloning or scientific morality, no cautionary tale that anyone would take to heart and change their life over, and as a straight fictional thriller, there's not a damn thrill to be had.
What there is, is a whole lot of dark silhouettes, underlit scenes, and audience members straining their eyes trying to make out what was going on. Director Nick Hamm seems to think he's a lot more artistic than he is, because this was obviously a style choice, designed to make everything appear spooky, but it was never once spooky at all. there ar a few jump moments, a lot of false jump moments, and plenty of Rebecca Romijn's sumptuous chest pushing hard against cotton, but that's all. No substance, no style, no scares.And, frankly, no movie. Just a waste of money, a waste of time, and a waste of an actor that was once considered a legend, and is now rapidly becoming a keyword for crap.
link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=9282&reviewer=1
originally posted: 02/18/05 08:53:56