Sunday, May 17, 2015

Godsend (2004)

Do you think movies have too many entertaining parts? Perhaps too many things about them that stand out, make sense and make you want to watch more? Well, if you do, have no fear – Godsend is the movie for you.

Director: Nick Hamm
Starring: Robert de Niro, Greg Kinnear, Rebecca Romijn

Co-written with Michelle.

This was actually released a year before the other shitty Robert de Niro thriller, Hide and Seek – but when I saw these movies as a kid, this was the order I saw them in, so that's how I'm reviewing 'em. It's a woefully uneventful film with all the charisma and liveliness of a hay bale after a barn fire.

We start off with what everyone always wants to see at the beginning of a film, a birthday party scene. When has watching a birthday party of people you don't know ever been entertaining? Like yeah, really, I'm stoked to watch people pretending to have a birthday party for some kid in a movie. That sounds like awesome cinema!

Godsend: it makes you not want eight year olds to have good birthday parties.

You'll notice very quickly in this that the movie's only mode of getting you invested in the characters is to show the most fluffed up, happy-crappy nonsense ever. There's no real meat – just pictures of the characters smiling and laughing. Because that's the barometer for how life works...either you're happy without a care in the world, or your son is dead. Those are literally the only two options.

Because, yup, in the next scene, Adam dies. His mom, played by Rebecca Romijn-Stamos, takes him out to buy a new pair of sneakers. While he's outside playing, a bicycle implausible swerves for no reason in the path of a car, which then swerves to avoid the bike, and ends up hitting Adam, killing him instantly.

You'd have to be a really terrible driver to actually do this. I mean, like, blind-deaf-mute kind of driving.

The next few scenes are just the parents, Paul and Jessie, grieving because, I presume, those shoes were really expensive, dammit!

"Damn you, Nike products! My wallet is crying even more than I am!"

Luckily for them, at the funeral, they run into an old professor of Jessie's, played by Robert de Niro. He really came prepared, as he's already got a whole spiel planned about how his new science lab can clone their dead child and bring him back to life.

"You can trust me because I am wearing a suit and tie."

Paul and Jessie spend an astonishingly short amount of time discussing this – I guess Paul is a bit on the fence at first, but once he watches some more blandly cheerful home movies of the family smiling and laughing, he's on board for this abomination against nature.

And I get it – losing a kid is a devastating thing. But the movie just doesn't portray it as any kind of big deal – there's really no depth or understanding of the grief. They're just sad because they can't make more happy-pill-addled home videos of people laughing and smiling. We don't know anything about this family or about the kid, and the movie just rushes through all their grief in favor of bullshit thriller junk. Like so many films in the mid-2000s, it exploits human tragedy in favor of shocking plot twists and cash-grab thrills with zero substance, which basically makes it an instant zero-star film for me.

Clearly the movie was trying to convey sadness - that's obvious. But it's just not well done. We don't get any real insight into these characters and their motives just by showing us extremely generic videos of them laughing together.

Okay, so there's some half-assed dialogue thrown in about how she can't have any more kids, or some shit like that – so grieve naturally, and adopt a kid then. Fucking hundreds of people do that every day. I get that, given the chance, it might be tempting to try and bring your kid back – but come the fuck on. There were no red flags given by the creepy, mysterious old man who showed up at the funeral and told you he could clone your dead son? This merited no skepticism?

The most trustworthy face in the universe, ohhh yeah.

But hey – I'm sure it'll be fine. When has something this shady, dangerous and insane ever turned out bad in a movie? While you're at it, go give your credit card information to that guy in the ratty coat who's been standing on a street corner all day and says he has good financial advice for you. I'm sure he'll help.

They go through an overly long and boring scene of getting the wife artificially inseminated again, and after the baby is born, she thanks God for it. Yeah, fuck all those doctors (and the probably-illegal scientific developments) that made this possible. Thank God instead.

But really, I was just hoping the baby would come out like this:

What a beautiful hellspawn abandoned by nature...

But whatever, they do it and then eight years go by and their new genetic abomination of a child is at the same age their old son was when he died. They also had to move to some remote location in a beautiful country home, because all of these stupid movies always have to have super nice, clean looking homes that look like nobody has ever lived there. I mean, why bother making any aspect of your movie relatable?

And how did this kid get so many friends again? I think we need some plausible scriptwriting here – just remove most of the other kids and have him eating cake alone.

No, we don't need any more birthday scenes, you hacks!

The rest of this film sinks into levels of banality I never knew were possible. We get tons of lame-ass jump scares where the movie goes quiet for a second and then some loud sound happens. There are also a bunch of idiotic dream sequences where Adam dreams a bunch of kids in school are making fun of him, and also another one where he's attacking someone with a hammer. Eh, it happens – this is pretty much all a metaphor for puberty.

There's also a few times when he acts weirdly, like when he gets in a swinging contest with a bunch of bullies at his school – because you know, bullies have contests to see who can swing the highest in between atomic wedgies and swirlies in the bathroom. It's just part of the bullying vocabulary. But yeah, after he falls off the swing, he spits in his teacher's face.

Oh, and there's also the tiny little detail that he kills that bully later on by shoving him into a frozen lake. I'm not even being sarcastic – it really is just played off like a tiny little detail, given no weight or drama behind it. He killed a kid? So what! He's having dreams about hammers! THAT'S the important thing!

This is a metaphor for the fact that you should turn this movie off and go outside instead of watching any more.

Eventually, Paul and Jessie, being geniuses, figure out that not everything is quite right. Really, guys? Genetically cloning your dead child in a secret hush-hush experiment where the scientist who told you about it swore you to secrecy ISN'T a trustworthy thing? Gee, only took you almost ten fucking years to figure that out. Nothing gets past you guys. You're real Sherlock Holmeses, the both of you.

Well, I say both of them, but really Jessie is trying to cling to the hope that things will be okay, so it's really just Paul who's actively suspicious. The two of them have a seemingly endless slew of conversations in the last two acts of the movie that all kinda go like this:

PAUL: There's obviously something wrong with this kid because we cloned him and now he's having weird dreams and acting strange!

JESSIE: No, he's our son and we have to protect him!

PAUL: You're crazy!

It's like two people with Alzheimer's forgetting they already had the same argument before.

That's it – just that mind numbing conversation, repeated enough until you want to claw your eardrums out with a spork. Jesus fuck this is a boring movie. They take an hour and forty minutes for the movie, and most of it could be dialed down to one two-minute scene. I don't know if you're keeping score, but yeah, that's called trash filmmaking from the dumpster.

So, I guess if you even care, they figure out that Adam has some other kid haunting his mind, Zachary Clark. Paul then goes out and finds this old housekeeper lady who knew the real Zachary Clark from years ago. I love how this lady was apparently just ready to drop everything she was doing to talk to this idiot about a story that has obviously traumatized her. Like, she was just waiting all these years for some dumbass to come to her door and ask about it. It's basically like she doesn't exist except when exposition is needed.

"I only exist for this one scene, in a vacuum, to spew exposition. After the scene is over, my non-existent character disappears into thin air, never to be seen again."

The story is, I suppose, that Zachary Clark was bullied by kids at school, so one day he killed his mom with a hammer and then burnt down the house, or something like that. I guess in some reality that might make sense, but it isn't mine. We also find out – dun dun DUN – that de Niro was the father of Zachary Clark and has been trying to clone him.

I get that it's trying to be a plot twist, but it's a pretty poorly done one, with how much plot they tried to cram into that very short few minutes, like a dozen Twinkies into the mouth of a fat Dachsund. I get the idea the writers just fell asleep writing the rest of the movie and then the producer just came in, scribbled some nonsense on a napkin, stapled it to the rest of the script, and then turned that in to be filmed.

If you can believe it, de Niro and Paul get into a fight in a church in which a fire is started. De Niro leaves and we never fucking see him again – oh, except for this newspaper clipping in which front-page news was devoted to saying “No new information found on disappeared scientist.” Fucking brilliant, that is.

Paul then goes and saves his wife from being killed by Adam/Zachary, and talks Adam down just by saying a few nice words. Wow. That's pretty much the lamest and most anticlimactic ending this movie could have had – what if other horror movies had that as the climax? Michael Myers in Halloween talked down by Dr. Loomis saying “it's okay, you're a nice person.” That would have improved it tenfold.

"Please, just stop acting crazy. I want to get a paycheck without having to emote in this crap movie." 

The actual ending is when they're moving into yet a third home to try and start over again – but it turns out, as we see in a rather blunt shot of Adam being pulled into the closet by “Zachary.” Awesome – it's like the Psychology for Dummies version of Session 9. Thanks so much for that.

This film is just the kind of thing you'd pick out of the bargain bin box at Walmart when you literally have zero other ideas for what you want to see. And then you'd just wish you had forgone watching anything and just stared at a wall for an hour and forty minutes. At least in the latter case, you'd be able to think in solitude without the idiotic dribble of the movie's story constantly annoying you. Goddammit, I hate this shit. It's just so fucking bad, and every scene just hurts me.

It really says something that this movie was such a low point in de Niro's career – I mean, fuck, even the one where he cross-dresses was better than this.

Yeah – safe to say, I'll be sticking to Taxi Driver, Goodfellas and Heat next time, thank you very much. I'd rather remember why de Niro used to be a legend instead. As for this movie, well...

That about sums it up.

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