1. Headline
  1. Headline
Lions Gate Films
Greg Kinnear, Rebecca-Romijn Stamos and Robert De Niro star in "Godsend."
By Film critic
updated 4/30/2004 5:41:10 PM ET 2004-04-30T21:41:10

When an actor develops a tick that no one can forget, perhaps it’s best to leave it alone. Case in point: Humphrey Bogart expressing Capt. Queeg’s agitated mental state by rolling steel balls around in his hand. It worked in “The Caine Mutiny” 50 years ago, but today it seems a device fit only for sketch comedy.

Alas, Robert De Niro, no less, can’t resist doing a steel-ball-rolling Queeg routine in “Godsend,” and he seems to mean it. While no signs of self-parody are visible (aside from the fact that the balls are noticeably larger), the movie generates plenty of unintended giggles. His character, Dr. Richard Wells, is a mad scientist, straight out of “Frankenstein” and its heirs, who specializes in the illegal practice of cloning children.

Dr. Wells’ latest victims are a distraught married couple, Paul (Greg Kinnear) and Jessie (Rebecca Romijn-Stamos) Duncan, who have just lost their eight-year-old boy, Adam (Cameron Bright), in a traffic accident. Dr. Wells arrives at the boy’s gloomy funeral to offer a tempting form of rebirth: using one cell from Adam’s body, he claims he can reproduce the boy almost exactly.

Offended at first, the grief-engulfed Duncans initially reject the plan, but Jessie and then Paul decide they have no options. In no time at all, the new Adam (also played by Bright) has reached his eighth birthday. Then split-personality problems develop, as Adam 2 ventures into territory unexplored by Adam 1.

Directed in an overwrought, mannered style by Nick Hamm (“Talk of Angels,” “The Hole”), the movie starts eeriely enough with a hint that Paul is a doomed man, a kind of accident-prone creature dogged by fate. Adam’s death, which is staged in a way that makes it look horrifyingly preventable, seems part of a terrible pattern that Paul can’t escape. If only he and his wife were a bit luckier, they might not be forced to share this nightmare.

After Dr. Wells makes his first appearance, however, the movie loses its grip. It gradually turns into the kind of ridiculous Gothic thriller that can’t stop borrowing from “The Sixth Sense” and “The Omen” and other horror films about psychic or evil children. It doesn’t help that Bright’s doll-like features are used in a way that suggests that Adam is related to the monstrous Chucky doll of the “Child’s Play” movies.

The more Kinnear and Romijn-Stamos attempt to demonstrate what ideal parents Paul and Jessie are, the more they express their love for the increasingly creepy Adam, the loonier they appear. And when the malevolent Dr. Wells confesses his paternal feelings toward Adam, there’s little De Niro can do to put the idea across.

The screenwriter, Mark Bomback (currently working on “Die Hard 4”), sets up too many shock scenes that neither shock nor surprise, while failing to make the relationship between Paul and Jessie count. In the end, despite the actors’ hard work, even their anguish looks generic.

© 2013 msnbc.com Reprints


Discussion comments


Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments

More on TODAY.com

  1. Joan Lunden: 10 things I wish I knew before I was diagnosed with breast cancer

    From the moment you hear the words ‘You have breast cancer,’ it’s almost like you’re shot out of a cannon. Here are 10 things I wish I knew before I was diagnosed.

    10/1/2014 10:52:45 AM +00:00 2014-10-01T10:52:45
  2. Want to help? A guide to breast cancer charities

    In the United States an estimated 296,000 women and 2,240 men will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year and almost 40,000 women and 410 men will die of the disease. That's one death every 14 minutes, according to the National Breast Cancer Coalition.

    10/1/2014 10:45:11 AM +00:00 2014-10-01T10:45:11
  3. Samantha Okazaki / TODAY
  1. Texas Ebola patient had contact with kids

    Texas Gov. Rick Perry said in a press conference on Wednesday that “some school-age children” had been identified as having contact with the man diagnosed with the first case of Ebola in the United States. 

    10/1/2014 5:37:52 PM +00:00 2014-10-01T17:37:52
  1. Getty Images file

    Duchess Kate pulls out of charity event due to morning sickness

    10/1/2014 1:20:02 PM +00:00 2014-10-01T13:20:02
  1. TODAY

    Derek Jeter dismisses 'most eligible bachelor' title: 'No, no, no'

    10/1/2014 11:43:39 AM +00:00 2014-10-01T11:43:39
  1. Getty Images file

    Brad Pitt loves 'being a father,' raves about kids, Angelina Jolie

    10/1/2014 6:16:00 PM +00:00 2014-10-01T18:16:00