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Bless The Child

Rated [R], minutes
Starring Kim Basinger; Jimmy Smits, Rufus Sewell, Ian Holm, Angela Bettis and Christina Ricci
Screenplay by Tom Rickman and Clifford Green & Ellen Green
Based on the novel by Cathy Cash Spellman
Directed by Chuck Russell

IN SHORT: Preposterous

Here's the long and short of it, this reviewer being a guy who studied religious history for a long time before during and after his collegiate years: At their root, all organized religions are basically the same. They vary in certain methods of practice, representation of the Godhead but, more radically, in terms of symbols and in-house mythology. Movies which try to walk the fine line between good and evil, when using religious terms, are always wise to stick to the basics which are generally understood, if not generally believed. Movies, such as Bless The Child starring Kim Basinger and Jimmy Smits ignore the generalities and go for the big scare -- red eyed rats, gargoyles, beatific angels in human garb, Satan himself and flying balls of light that I'm guessing represent Jesus and some of the Godly Host. It's a good gamble, except that the movie script, adapted from a novel by Cathy Cash Spellman is one bit of balderdash after another. Or, to use the vernacular, it's godawful.

For the first hour of the movie, in which all the important plot elements are being set up, it almost works -- then come a pair of horribly written scenes that follow the standard horror formula of "not telling what you know to people who can help you" that could have sent this flick to a merciful death. But it gets worse . . .

Psychiatric Nurse Maggie O'Connor (Basinger) is a good woman. After several miscarriages, she's lost her husband and lives a fairly quiet life in New York City. As Christmas approaches, a Jamaican stranger on a bus points out that the Star of Yaakov is once again in the sky -- first time since Bethlehem. Maggie admits that she doesn't much care for religion, she's a nonobservant Catholic. The stranger tells her that the star doesn't particularly care if she believes or not. The mystic weirdness continues as Maggie finds a decrepit looking junkie perched on the steps to her building. It is not a stranger, it is her sister Jenna (Angela Bettis), lugging a nine day old baby girl, Cody, who will be quickly abandoned in the care of her old maid aunt. The baby is a beauty, but it soon manifests unusual signs -- a mild case of autism perhaps, but definitely some kind of "power'.

Six years into the story, exhibiting other worldly power is not exactly a safe thing to do in the big apple. Five children have already been kidnapped and murdered as "someone" is looking for a particular child born on a particular day who has particular abilties more along the lines of an antichrist than a Christ child. The FBI is aware of the coincidences, and when agent John Travis (Jimmy Smits) discovers the legal abduction of Cody O'Connor (Holliston Coleman) by her now on-the-wagon mom and newly married dad Eric Stark (Rufus Sewell), he pays particular attention. Cody, who's "kidnapping" has been reported by Maggie, has the same particular birthdate as all the other missing and/or murdered children. But that's not anything that should concern Maggie, 'cuz she's never told.

From here on in, Bless The Child shovels on everything but the kitchen sink. Stark runs a self help Foundation called New Dawn -- everyone else properly identifies it as a manipulative cult and Maggie's sister is fully in it's grip. The Foundation has money, power, an unlisted phone number and hordes of demons and gargoyles with red eyes protecting its headquarters. Maggie, apparently, is the only one who can see them. Just as Maggie was the only one to see street junkie named Cheri (Christina Ricci) savaged by a gang of Foundation kidlets and a pair of demons. Cheri, an escapee from the cult, knows and provides all the inside info on situations that she couldn't have been aware of -- since the script makes it plain that she fled the cult months before the main events take place.

In simple words, so we all understand, it doesn't take long before absolutely nothing in this script makes any sense. You have to accept that there are magical forces at play here -- people appear and disappear mysteriously, day to day continuity is completely ignored, Maggie gets drugged, threatened with criminal warrants, starts having visions. . .

In short, there must have been a ton of stuff in the book 'cuz the three screenwriters have tried to keep it all in the movie. Even without referencing the source material, which we don't do, we know exactly what the problem is. Virtually all of the time, in adaptations like this, when you want it all, when you try to deliver it all, you ultimately get nothing.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Bless The Child, he would have paid...


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