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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

Godsend (review)

Attack of the Clone

Who’s afraid of twins? I mean, sure, there’s the Olsens, but apart from them? Is there something so inherently creepy about a clone — which is just a twin born years later — that it’s automatically the basis of a horror movie? I dunno: Did Dolly the sheep run amuck and kill a family of Scottish farmers with an axe one night and I just missed it?

Maybe it’s De Niro. Could be, with the movies he’s been making lately, and boy, does it pain me to say that. But when you hear De Niro’s in a new movie, your first instinctive reaction is a shudder, isn’t it? That terrible, frightful dread: Bad Movie Alert!
It can’t be good, when you’re a couple grieving over the tragic death of your eight-year-old son that Robert De Niro offers to help you bring the kid back to life. They’re freaked, of course, the Duncans, Paul and Jessie, but they agree, of course, cuz if they hadn’t, there’d have been no movie. Which would have been fine, actually. Cuz there’s really nothing all that creepy about a clone, not that Shymalanawannabe Nick Hamm doesn’t try, with this very gray-green film bursting with portents and signs and the like. It’s like Rosemary’s Baby, only not scary, and the baby is eight years old.

But it’s a realllllly long runup to the bits that are supposed to be scary — first we have to wade through Greg Kinnear (Someone Like You, The Gift) and Rebecca Romijn-Stamos (The Punisher, X2: X-Men United) being very all-American and in love and sad that bright young Adam (Cameron Bright: The Butterfly Effect) bought it the day after his eighth birthday in a tragic sporting-goods-related accident. They explore the impossibly beautiful house that De Niro’s (Analyze That, City by the Sea) Dr. Wells gives them, free for nothing, merely for letting them be his guinea pigs, and even though the house has a dark basement that is attained via a dark staircase that Hamm lingers on so you know it’ll be important and dark and hopefully creepy later, the Duncans don’t catch on that Something’s Not Right. And then there are the interludes in which Paul talks to his friend Sam, who exists only to call on the phone with vital information just when Paul is starting to worry about what kind of nutjob Wells might be.

We keep waiting and waiting for Adam 2.0 to go all Satanic and evil on us, but damn if this isn’t the dullest “horror” movie ever made, except for some very brief flashes of bizarre hilarity. Like when Hamm intercuts Adam 2.0’s violent nightmares with Mom and Dad’s lovemaking, as if to say, perhaps, Look, if they’d made the kid in the normal way, he wouldn’t be Satanic. And when Adam 2.0 is finally starting to behave like the cloned spawn of the devil — or whatever the heck he is — is supposed to, Hamm intercuts his depraved treachery (which isn’t really all that bad, the kid’s no Damien or anything) with De Niro banging his balls together — you know, those metal ones that people roll in their palms to de-stress or whatever they’re supposed to do — and you just know that Hamm thinks this juxtaposition is very Significant and Meaningful. Good luck trying to figure it out.

Godsend is spectacularly uncreepy, and a good place to catch a nap for the first 75 minutes or so. But wake up after that, because all the awfulness you’ve been expecting spread throughout the film will be crammed into the last 30 minutes in an orgy of bad filmmaking: stuff jumping out at you for no reason, people bleeding profusely from head wounds but nevertheless showing up on the other side of the county minutes later, lightbulbs exploding, that kind of thing. I can’t say that I much understand it, either.

At one particularly unscary moment, Adam 2.0 intones, “Something bad is going to happen.” Yep, they made room for a sequel. Sheesh, you don’t need to have been genetically futzed around with as a zygote to have seen that coming.


MPAA: rated PG-13 for violence including frightening images, a scene of sexuality and some thematic material

viewed at a semipublic screening with an audience of critics and ordinary moviegoers

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