Some film-makers must think audiences only began watching movies yesterday. From the corny opening shots featuring grimacing gargoyles looming over the Manhattan skyline to the splutteringly stoopid Satan-summoning finale, Bless The Child pulls every cheap cinematic trick possible to try and put the willies into its punters and, unsurprisingly, fails.
Skirting similar territory to the likes of Stigmata, End Of Days and The Ninth Gate - none of which exactly demand imitation - director Chuck Russell (Eraser) labours desperately to weave a(nother) chilling tale of God versus the Devil, with his `ordinary' heroes trapped in the middle. But the result is more tepid than chilling, thanks to a script which, frankly, insults your intelligence, and a turn from Kim Basinger that'll make you wonder how she even managed to get within spitting distance of an Oscar.
With all the screen presence and charisma of a half-melted Barbie, the foundation-caked Basinger stumbles from mark to mark stuttering her obvious, sub-soap dialogue in a whispery monotone. In fact, she's so inexpressive that the only way you'll be able to notice a change in her character's emotional state is by observing how much eyeliner she's wearing at the time. Never before has an actress' performance been so dependent on her make-up department - although, to be fair, they ladled it on so thick that, if she'd moved any of her facial muscles too quickly, her distorted clown face would have simply cracked.
Jimmy Smits, meanwhile, looks in severe danger of following the same career path of fellow NYPD Blue alumnus David Caruso. A priest-turned-FBI man ("I found another way to fight `em," he grunts at one point) ain't exactly among the strongest roles a recently-quit TV actor could have hoped for. Only his cameo in the next Star Wars episode can help him now.
So what we want to know is, Why is it that all "special" children have to have a disability of some kind? Why do all bad teenagers still dress up like goths and punks? Why does it take everyone in these movies so long to notice parallels between current events and biblical episodes? And just when did the Devil stop being cool? All of these questions, and more, won't be answered in Bless The Child...
Satan may, as they say, have all the good music, but he sure as hell doesn't have many good movies anymore. Crappy CG rats, punky teens in black, a wonky-eyed bad guy and a horde of praying nuns make for a sulphurous stew of abysmal nonsense.
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