Bless the Child
2000, R, 110 min. Directed by Chuck Russell. Starring Kim Basinger, Jimmy Smits, Rufus Sewell, Christina Ricci, Angela Bettis, Ian Holm, Holliston Coleman, Yan Birch, Lumi Cavazos.
REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., Aug. 11, 2000
They say the devil's in the details; if that's the case, then Bless the Child ought to be endorsed by the Christian Family Council as movie of the year. There are so very few details, so very little story, to this hackneyed load of theologically revisionist codswallop that it's less a movie than a collection of seemingly random scenes strung together like vestments dangling from a rectory washline. Ostensibly a horror film in the manner of the recent (and equally bad) Stigmata, Bless the Child fails to raise even a single hackle. Not only that, but it suffers from some of the most leaden, unnecessarily expository rafts of dialogue to come down the demonic pike since the wisely forgotten 1975 Italian Exorcist knockoff Beyond the Door. The film feels as though its release has been delayed a quarter century, and not just 18 months. Director Chuck Russell (Jim Carrey's The Mask, and the 1988 remake of The Blob) has displayed a real flair for the outré in the past; here he seems to be just plain bored, summoning some spectacularly bad CGI effects (rats, Satan) when the creepies start to bog down. It works not at all. The story feels cribbed from other sources as well (not the least of which is Ira Levin's inexplicably awful Son of Rosemary, which appeared a couple of years ago). An angelic six-year-old tyke named Cody (Coleman) is being pursued by a militant satanic organization across New York City. Her Aunt Maggie (Basinger), the child's guardian since her junkie mother deposited her on her doorstep nine days after her birth, is bewildered at first, but eventually realizes that all these winged demons roaming around bode ill for the kid and enlists former seminary student-turned-cop Smits for help. From there on out it's a race against time (and the audience's boredom threshold) to smite the evil head of the Satanists (Sewell, playing us his lazy right eye like nobody's business) and save the savior. At least, I'm pretty sure that's what was going on. The script, by Southern white-trash chronicler Thomas Rickman (Hooper, Coal Miner's Daughter), is a lazy, dullish thing, peppered with random non-shocks and a seemingly inexhaustible collection of inane exchanges between Basinger (looking suitably confused) and Smits (looking confusingly suitable). I kept waiting for sparks to fly between the grizzled NYPD detective and his charge, but apparently romance wasn't in the cards. Neither was suspense, though Russell struggles valiantly to achieve some sort of hifalutin' Judeo-Christian message in the flick, and succeeds not one iota. True believers and the faithful everywhere ought to be peeved at the story's simplistic reduction of the Old Testament mythos, and when old Scratch himself finally makes an appearance toward the end of the film, he resembles nothing so much as a child's-eye-view of the goat-horned baddie from my old Halloween costume circa third grade. Predictably, the film ends on a low, Omen-esque note that does little to soothe your aching head. You know you're in trouble when actors of note -- Holm, Ricci, and Cavazos -- fail even to register on your mental radar as they cameo past the eye. A pox on the house of all involved.