Monday, June 27, 2011

A Decade of Dreck #56: Godsend

Charge Shot!!! is celebrating the end of the decade in the most masochistic way we know how - by watching and writing about the 100 worst movies of the last ten years as defined by film review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes. Click here to see RT's complete list, click here for more about the Decade of Dreck project, and click here to see all of the movies we've done so far.

Scary little kids are going to be the death of horror movies, I swear to God. Once, long ago, a spooky kid could give you some genuine scares. Think back to Damien in The Omen, or those terrifying girls from The Shining (still one of the scariest things I've ever witnessed in a film). But somewhere in time, everything went off the rails and there were way too many scary kid movies; I blame The Sixth Sense.

Kids can be scary: something about that combination of supposed innocence and our inability to, you know, kill them, compounds to make a murderous/Satanic child one of the freakier things your horror movie protagonist could go up against. But of course, once you let the evil kitten out of the bag, you wind up with diminishing returns; hence, Godsend.

Everything about Godsend feels like disappointment. The movie is a ninety minute shrug. Look at the cast: Greg Kinnear? The man might as well hyphenate his name to "Greg Kinnear-What Is He Doing In This?". Rebecca Romijn? Having come of age during her tenure as Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue cover model, she is a very important woman in my life, but a great actress she is not. Robert De Niro? What was his last great movie? Casino? Couple this a tired trope and you have the makings for a Decade of Dreck entry.

Paul and Jessie are a completely boring couple that you don't care about. They have a completely uninteresting son named Adam who is played as the idea of the most perfect, most innocent and special child in history, the kind of kid that everybody but the bastard's parents hate. Every time that little shit says something like "This is the best birthday ever! I love you, Mom and Dad!", I just root for the proverbial hammer to drop and the little bastard to die screaming.

So a terrible tragedy befalls this terrible family (Adam gets run over by a car, natch) and we're supposed to feel so sad that the very definition of bland coupledom is deprived of their spawn. Listen, I'm sympathetic: I think that the loss of a child is probably the worst thing that can happen. But I also think that a film above all should have characters you care about and identify with. Zero time is spent on Kinnear and Romijn's family before the accident. We get Adam's eighth birthday party and then BAM, dead. I felt as sad at that kid's death and his parents' grief as I would seeing the same story on the network news.

So anyway, Paul and Jessie are sad that their kid is dead and wouldn't you know it? Doctor Robert De Niro, OBGYN arrives to save the day with a not-at-all-sinister proposal! Using brand new space age technology, De Niro can pervert science and nature and create an exact clone of dead little Adam and put it in Jessie's womb, essentially allowing her to give birth to her son all over again. After the requisite moral struggles at the dinner table, everybody decides to go through with it. But wouldn't you know it? The kid is evil. Funny how that works, right?

So, scary kids? Check. Actors who clearly don't give a fuck? Check. Painfully evident Canadian filming locations? This movie has it all. Like many of the films in this project, it's not one thing that derails the potential of a movie, it's a total systemic failure of the elements that make movies work. Scary kids can be done well, but they aren't here. It's full of cheap jump-out scares that don't stay with you beyond the quick burst of sound and movement that triggers the primal, fearful reptile part of your brain to flinch. A single performance can elevate sub-par genre fare, and nobody steps up to the plate for it here.

De Niro in particular fares especially bad. Just like his, uh, Righteous Kill co-star Al Pacino in the previous entry in this series, Bobby D seems to have been brought on with the assumption that star power and one of the best careers in cinema history can make a bad movie good. Of course, this just makes a good actor bad. De Niro just doesn't seem to care here, and who could blame him? The man needs to pick better movies. Maybe focus on working with good directors he's familiar with, or maybe just get lucky and make another Stardust, I don't know. Just stop doing this type of crap. We've had enough and it's making us hate you, Mr. De Niro.

Some day, kids will be scary again, maybe we'll have to wait a couple of years until we've gotten the taste of Godsend and Orphan out of our mouthes, but it will happen. Until then, this will serve as another horrible reminder of the age that was the Aughts.

Godsend is ranked #57 on the Rotten Tomatoes Worst 100 list with 5% freshness. Its RT page can be found here.