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01/06/2004. Contributed by Frank Ochieng

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In Godsend, Frank finds a run-of-the-mill child-cloning thriller turned into a flaccid frightfest that is all clumsy thumbs, and no controllable finger to decisively point this devilish dud of a movie in the right creative direction.

Godsend (2004) Lions Gate Films 1 hour 42 minutes. Starring: Greg Kinnear, Rebecca Romijn-Stamos, Robert DeNiro, Cameron Bright. Directed by Nick Hamm.

One should try to routinely take their run-of-the-mill child-cloning/reincarnation psychological thrillers for what itís worth. Unfortunately for filmmaker Nick Hamm, he just happened to conjure up a glaringly sluggish creepy kiddie supernatural flick thatís more laughably lopsided than it is lacerating in its haunting spirit.

In the choppy and overlong delusional drama Godsend, Hamm helms a flaccid frightfest that is all clumsy thumbs and has no controllable finger to decisively point this devilish dud in the right creative direction. Hampered by traces of unthinkable sketchy acting and screenwriter Mark Bombackís underwhelming and spotty script, Godsend wreaks its hazy havoc in a mindless methodical manner.

Godsend movie review

Godsend is an utterly loopy and lethargic Sixth Sense wannabe that has no original idea as to how to weave its reductive grievous and gory sentiments into a solid and compelling scare session.

Godsend is an unimaginative and odd movie that twists and turns yet it doesnít seem to know what to do with its withering themes of peril and despair concerning loss and artificial life. If anything, Hammís myopic narrative may entice unintentional comic relief from a questionable standpoint of recycled caustic clichés edged along by wooden characterizations and contrived circumstances that help render this chilling affair tremendously trivial. Not all the furious flourishes in the world can make this inconsolable hair-raising exorcise an acceptably polished and riveting suspense piece.

The premise centers around a New England-based couple named Paul and Jessie Duncan (Greg Kinnear and Rebecca Romijn-Stamos), a pair of grieving parents that lost their 8-year old son Adam (Cameron Bright) to death following a freakish car crash. Understandably, Adamís demise is still devastating and numbing to the Duncans as they continue to wallow in their apparent pain and inner suffering.

If there was just one chance that Paul and Jessie could experience the joy and love of Adamís company once more, it would take away all the tension and turmoil that currently suffocates their fragile mindset.

The realization of reuniting with Adam suddenly seems like a terrific prospect when Jessieís former professor Richard Wells (Robert DeNiro) enters the picture with a shaky promise of bringing back the Duncansí dearly departed offspring. Dr. Wells is now a clinical specialist in the science of human cloning and presents to the Duncans an offer they wonít refuseóbringing back their precious Adam to life via the DNA samplings that will jump start the boyís existence all over again.

Granted itís a gamble on Dr. Wellsís part but Jessie doesnít care about that uncertain reality as long as the results are favorable in having Adam return to her lonely arms. Paul, on the other hand, is quite weary about this procedure and the skepticism is evident but he sees how rejuvenating this experiment will be for Jessieís damaged psyche.

Anyway, with the assistance of Dr. Wells and his cloning capabilities, Jessie finally gives birth to baby Adam number two whoís obviously the spitting image of their original late son. As the years go by, all is pretty much comfortable and cozy until the cloned Adam II starts to show some bizarre behavioral signs in his eighth year of existence.

Strangely enough, the patterns of Adam IIís raucous reactions are occurring at the specific age of eight when the Duncansí first Adam had died tragically. In other words, the second installment of Adam Duncan is uniquely defective and this second helping of a lost loving son will soon make bewildered parents Paul and Jessie pay dearly for messing around with the natural order of things meant to be.

Consequently, Godsend is a pseudo-stylish and brooding "fingernails-scrapping-the-chalkboard" flick that falsely champions itself as a dark and disturbing fantasy forewarning the concept of manipulating manufactured life and the consequences about tinkering with scientific fate. This is all well and good about the message of this misguided movie but Hamm fails terribly at delivering this belabored point in a meandering and gauzy fashion.

Because Godsend is so unbelievably shoddy and anemic, Hamm loses sight of any stimulating possibilities that could have enhanced this quasi-thriller as mildly riveting in its subject matter. The moviemaker is so determined to paint his petrifying picture as this somber display of disillusionment that he neglects to inject anything exciting or interesting that would give dimension to this undemanding patchwork of pathos.

The lead players Kinnear and Romijn-Stamos do what they can to heighten the mundane material but with mixed results. Kinnear is certainly effective as the disoriented dad and his feelings of unstable and emotional imbalance registers convincingly despite his notable efforts being wasted away in a schlocky chiller.

As a screen couple, both Kinnear and Romijn-Stamos somehow donít seem to measure up as their chemistry as put-upon parents with abandonment issues feels like a stretch. Individually, they occasionally click when confronting the remorsefulness of their isolated struggles. Shockingly, DeNiro is uncharacteristically unfocused and simply goes through the staid motions without seeming to care how he traipses through the unpalatable proceedings.

At times, DeNiroís Dr. Wells feebly is an arbitrary fixture in the middle of the madness and it certainly doesnít help matters any that the resilient actor looks and acts bored with his pared-down alter ego. Bright is passable as the tortured tyke Adam but itís nothing memorable that sticks out immediately amongst the "kid-in-endangerment" formula that rears its predictable head in this kind of repetitive sensationalistic cinema.

In the scheme of things, Godsend is a murky melodrama of crushingly halfhearted proportions. From the get go, this crawly clunker never managed to find its rollicking rhythm and thatís a darn shame because this showcase had some mighty good potential if it knew how to handle its content with an ounce of competence attached to its tiresome execution.

Frank Ochieng

(c) Frank Ochieng 2004

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