Godsend

Posted on April 27, 2004 at 8:14 pm

C
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
Profanity: Brief strong language
Alcohol/ Drugs: Characters drink and smoke
Violence/ Scariness: Horror-style thriller with scary surprises and grisly images
Diversity Issues: None
Date Released to Theaters: 2004

I think it is a good bet that some day there will be an Oscar lifetime achievement award for Robert DeNiro. And I think it is a better bet that clips from this movie will be nowhere near that event.

The movie updates two of the most compelling and enduring themes in horror. First is the idea of the beloved child who becomes threatening or evil. This addresses the deep conflicts we feel, loving our children so much that it terrifies us, wanting to protect them from harm, and sometimes feeling guilty about resenting or fearing them. In a sense, all children turn into monsters at some point. Those darling angels who love us more than anything and want us to know everything about them eventually turn into hostile teenagers who want us to know nothing about them. And it is very disturbing to think of small, endearing, beloved children as frightening. Powerful or evil children are frequent characters in scary stories.

The second theme is the one that goes all the way back to the earliest recorded stories, hubris. Inevitably, men try to play God and inevitably, tragedy results. This is the latest of the many stories about the longing to bring back a loved one who has died, usurping God’s greatest of all powers, the control of life and death. As with hundreds of myths and fairy tales, this is a story whose moral is “be careful what you wish for.”

Paul (Greg Kinnear) and Jessie (Rebecca Romijn-Stamos) are the loving parents of Adam (Cameron Bright). He is killed just after his 8th birthday and a former professor of Jessie’s named Richard (Robert DeNiro) makes them a stunning offer. If they give him access to some of Adam’s cells within 72 hours, he will use them to create a new child for Paul and Jessie, one who will be an exact replica of Adam. If they agree, they will have to leave their jobs and home and cut off all ties with friends and family, because no one must know. Is it wrong? Well, Jessie says that “sometimes ethics have to take a back seat.” In other words, Jessie should get ready for a big fat karma payback.

But at first, it seems like a dream come true. They have a beautiful new home and they have their son back. They even give him the same name, the meaningfully selected “Adam.”

Then Adam turns 8, and something is not right. He begins seeing things and his behavior is increasingly aggressive, even disturbed. They take him to see “Uncle Richard,” who says that it is not significant, but that “things could change once he crosses the age when he died.” They knew exactly what to expect up for the first 7 years, but “we don’t have a map past age 8.”

So far, so not too bad. But then the whole movie falls apart, just a mishmash of jumpy surprises and creepy portents, with a dash of exposition drivel, some scenery-chewing, and a lot of stuff that even in the horror movie-watching suspension-of-belief mode makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. A better final third of the movie would really be a godsend.

Parents should know that this is a horror-style thriller with many scary surprises and grisly images. Characters are in peril and some are killed. Characters drink alcohol and use some strong language.

Families who see this movie should talk about other stories inspired by the wish to bring back a loved one who has died, including The Vampire Lestat, The Monkey’s Paw, and Frankenstein.

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy The Omen, The Shining, The Boys from Brazil, The Others, and The Bad Seed.

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