Here’s a mystery for FBI agents Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) and Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) to solve: Why are the “X Files” movies so disappointing? A decade after the muddled and inert “The X Files: Fight the Future,” Scully and Mulder return for “The X Files: I Want to Believe,” which often feels like a routine serial killer flick with some offensive plot twists.
After years away from the bureau, our heroes are called in to help the feds figure out if their search for a missing female agent is being aided or distracted by Father Joe (Billy Connolly), a defrocked and disgraced Catholic priest — he molested 37 altar boys — who claims to be having visions of the woman. Scully is both skeptical of the former priest’s visions and, as a devout Catholic, furious at him for his crimes, but Mulder, true to form, thinks the man might be onto something.
When another woman in the area goes missing, and Father Joe has visions of her as well, the plot thickens, ultimately leading Mulder deeper and deeper into the dark places that Scully no longer wants in her life. She’s got her hands full, in any event, trying to save a terminally ill child (who happens to be the same age as the boy that she and Mulder gave up years earlier) over the objections of the hospital administrators and even the child’s parents.
“I Want to Believe,” as the title suggests, deals with issues of faith and credence, raising some interesting issues along the way; unfortunately, the script (by Frank Spotnitz and series creator Chris Carter) ties its various plot strands together in a clunky and unconvincing way, allowing theme to run roughshod over story.
It’s impossible to discuss the eventual plot twist without getting too deeply into spoiler territory; suffice it to say that it’s both howlingly offensive to GLBT audiences — the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation should be prepared to fire up some press releases — and it’s so tawdry and ludicrous that, were the film’s tone anything but Carter’s usual dark and downbeat style, this movie would be the new “I Know Who Killed Me.”
Making this tacky gay reveal doubly offensive is the fact that “I Want to Believe” is dedicated to Randy Stone, the “X Files” TV show’s openly gay original casting director who was the founder of the Trevor Project, a non-profit organization that does invaluable work for GLBT adolescents.
While the writing goes south, the cast does its best with the hand it’s been dealt. Anderson, in particular, reminds us that she can really hold a close-up; her interests have taken her to the stage and television, but she’s a fine film actress. Both Anderson and Duchovny seem comfortable taking the characters in new, more human directions. The stilted, monotone mumbling of “Fight the Future” — which made the “Mystery Science Theater” alums over at Rifftrax.com refer to the duo as “Mumbles and Sister Wendy” — has been replaced with a range of emotions and a deeper chemistry.
Scully and Mulder spent nearly a decade chasing extraterrestrials and other unexplained phenomena on television; it seems a waste of everyone’s time to reunite them for a third-rate “Silence of the Lambs.”