Combustible Celluloid
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With: Greg Kinnear, Rebecca Romijn-Stamos, Robert De Niro, Cameron Bright
Written by: Mark Bomback
Directed by: Nick Hamm
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for violence including frightening images, a scene of sexuality and some thematic material
Running Time: 102
Date: 03/18/2013

Godsend (2004)

2 Stars (out of 4)

Clodhopping Clone Chiller

By Rob Blackwelder, SPLICEDwire

The concept of an evil doppelganger has been a feeble plot device of B-movie thrillers for so long now that I'm surprised, with all the headline-news advances in microbiology lately, it's taken Hollywood until now to crank out a connect-the-dots, spooky-child cloning concoction like Godsend.

Greg Kinnear and Rebecca Romijn-Stamos play grieving parents led down the primrose path of DNA duplication by a secretive scientist (Robert De Niro), only to discover that something's definitely amiss with the identical replacement for their dead son (deliberately hollow-eyed Cameron Bright).

When the kid reaches his 8th birthday -- the age at which his previous incarnation (about which he knows nothing) got clocked by a car -- he starts having blackouts in which he seems possessed, and sleep-walking night terrors featuring eerie images of a child not unlike himself. Soon photographs are being torn and axes wielded while the soundtrack claps unpredictably with orchestral thunder designed to make you spill your popcorn.

While Godsend is not entirely predictable (although its use of horror clich├ęs like a mist-filled forest sure are), writer Mark Bomback and director Nick Hamm choose their flimsy, pseudo-scientific plot twists so poorly that at one point the parents arbitrarily assume their nightmare is over -- even though nothing has happened to suggest that's true in any way, shape or form.

This leaves the picture relying on its performances for believability, and the cast falls short. Kinnear toils visibly to emote, De Niro doesn't toil at all, and while moon-faced Bright pulls off his ominous dialogue persuasively, his authenticity is lacking when called on to be scared or to act like a normal little boy.

Romijn-Stamos (X-Men, Femme Fatale, The Punisher) continues to show unexpected promise as an actress, doing justice to her character's anguish and blinding determination to protect her substitute son. But it seems a shame to waste any of these actors on a movie with no higher aspirations than educing a few second-rate chills.

How an undemanding, over-extended, lesser-"Twilight Zone" script like Godsend attracted such talent in the first place is a mystery.

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