The makers of “Godsend” should be arrested for false advertising, as this film is anything but godly. A dreary and dull piece of work, its only saving grace is the performance of Robert DeNiro; otherwise, it’s a supernatural misfire that squanders an excellent cast and an intriguing idea.
Paul (Greg Kinnear) and Jessie Duncan (Rebecca Romijn-Stamos) are a happy young couple whose son is tragically ripped from their lives in an automobile accident. They are approached by Dr. Wells (Robert DeNiro), a geneticist who offers to give them back their son via a highly illegal cloning experiment. All seems to go well until the boy’s 8th birthday, the year he was killed. He starts having frightening episodes of night terrors and visions of a mysterious boy named “Zachary”. Are these apparitions inherited memories from his past existence, a ghost from beyond, or a physical manifestation of the evil that may be possessing the child? These questions are ultimately rhetorical, because it’s doubtful anyone watching the film will care.
As the only decent part of this disaster, Robert DeNiro (“Meet the Parents”) is good as Dr. Richard Wells. When we first see him, he’s grandfatherly and sympathetic — the man you’d want by your side during the loss of a dearly loved one. But it isn’t long before his true colors start to show. Wells exhibits attention towards Jessie that isn’t entirely medical, and appears to be trying to drive a wedge between the married couple. His motives, although they appear noble on the surface, are anything but — he also has no problems using an emotionally vulnerable couple to give him a genetic guinea pig.
Unfortunately DeNiro is only in a supporting role, and despite being excellent he can’t carry the film himself. The performances of Greg Kinnear (“We Were Soldiers”) and Rebecca Romijn-Stamos (“Femme Fatale”) as the bereaved couple are unconvincing and forced, as well as frequently bordering on the ridiculous. But compared to the performance of Cameron Bright, they’re brilliant. As the clone son, Bright seems to have prepared for the role by repeatedly watching every film in the “Omen” series. He never looks frightening, and instead just comes across as emotionally blank and boring.
Then again, the cast isn’t totally responsible for the wholesale collapse of the picture. Director Nick Hamm (“The Hole”) gives the film a washed out and unattractive look, and allows the pace to become lethargic. He never seems worried that his performers are mostly under performing, and seems happy that they showed up at all and bothered to remember their lines. But even if Hamm could fixed these problems, it’s doubtful he could have improve anything, since you get the impression he really doesn’t have a clear idea of what he’s doing.
Writer Mark Bromack’s script is a tired retread of the “evil child” idea and is never really scary or manages to deliver any jolts. He glosses over ethical issues of creating artificial life in favor of misguided horror efforts that goes nowhere.
“Godsend” is not a good film; in fact, it’s a disaster on the proportion of the Titanic, with a good cast and an intriguing idea wasted on an inferior product. The only silver lining is the performance of Robert DeNiro, who proves he can transcend even the worst material. In the end, this film is 102 minutes of your life you’ll never get back.
Nick Hamm (director) / Mark Bomback (screenplay)
CAST: Greg Kinnear …. Paul Duncan
Rebecca Romijn-Stamos …. Jessie Duncan
Robert De Niro …. Richard Wells
Cameron Bright …. Adam Duncan