Film Reviews

GODSEND

By • Apr 30th, 2004 •

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Running time — 102 minutes / MPAA rating: PG-13

QUOTE: Lacks the psychological terror of parents living with a dangerous kid.

The parents of Columbine’s Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold didn’t have a clue what their teenage boys were up to. (Perhaps their basement staging ground was off-limits to the stay-at-home dad?) The parents, absolved of any guilt by Harris and Klebold, were the last to know? We should all ask, were Ted Bundy and Jeffrey Dahmer normal kids?

Don’t you believe it. Parents know. Troubled kids don’t bother hiding anything from parents they hate.

What would you do if you found out your precious eight-year-old was dangerous?

Paul (Greg Kinnear) and Jessie Duncan (Rebecca Romijn-Stamos) are devastated when their eight-year-old son Adam (Cameron Bright) is hit and killed by a truck. Jessie told him he could go outside the store after buying him birthday sneakers. While Jessie does not blame herself, they are hesitant to clone him when her former teacher, Dr. Richard Wells (Robert De Niro), suggests it.

Dr. Wells is fabulously wealthy and heads a private fertility research center. He offers to bring back Adam. Dr. Wells also throws in a mansion by the water, a teaching job for Paul, and highly personalized medical care. They have to think about it.

The “New Adam Project” is a rousing success though it seems Paul becomes concerned over the amount of attention Dr. Wells showers on the boy. On Adam’s eighth birthday he starts acting weird. He’s having nightmares.

Paul and Jessie continue to let Adam sleep in his room alone at night and walk around the woods. Adam is unresponsive and withdrawn. Paul and Jessie try but cannot get through to their little boy.

Instead of finding a way to deal with a troubled child, they seek philosophical answers. Is he having memories of his death? Who is his imaginary friend? Should this boy be left alone?

The pace is slow-moving. This could have been a terrific film if screenwriter Mark Bomback delved deeper into the psychological problems presented here. Jessie’s personal guilt should have driven the story. Her decision to allow Adam to go outside the store cost her and Paul their only child. Her bond with New Adam should have been stronger and irrationally possessive; after all, he was already lost to her once through a misstep.

We are led to believe that the crux of GODSEND is “Would you replace a loved one if it were possible?,” but this is not what the film is really about.

No spoilers here, so I’ll just remark that the screenplay works only in a subtle way in resolving the moral dilemma Paul and Jessie face. Yet the director, Nick Hamm, fails to indicate that Paul and Jessie have been forced to undergo a dramatic, unsettling shift in their lives with New Adam.

Real-life non-parent Romijn-Stamos does not embarrass herself though I kept wondering what a post-MONSTER Charlize Theron would have done with the emotional tripwires Jessie has to confront. Romijn-Stamos grieves but she should have been inconsolable. Jessie would have felt responsible for Adam’s death. Paul would have at least harbored some anger towards Jessie. Real-life non-parent Kinnear is subdued but he has shown in the past (AUTO FOCUS) the ability to play more complicated characters. In fact, even De Niro plays it rather cool and straightforward. Therefore, the slow pacing of the performances must be due to Hamm’s direction. The terror level of the film would have benefited if Paul and Jessie had been gripped with hysteria and Wells had been more manipulative and egoistical.


Credits:
Director: Nick Hamm
Screenwriter: Mark Bomback
Producers: Cathy Schulman, Sean O’Keefe, Marc Butan
Executive producers: Todd Wagner, Mark Cuban, Jon Feltheimer, Mark Canton, Michael Paseornek, Michael Burns, Eric Kopeloff
Director of photography: Kramer Morgenthau
Production designer: Doug Kraner
Music: Brian Tyler
Co-producers: Steve Mitchell, Mark Bomback
Costume designer: Suzanne McCabe
Editors: Steve Mirkovich, Niven Howie

Cast:
Paul Duncan: Greg Kinnear
Jessie Duncan: Rebecca Romijn-Stamos
Richard Wells: Robert De Niro
Adam Duncan: Cameron Bright

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