Review: “Godsend” (2004)

FFFFFFFFFUUUUUUUCK THIS MOVIE!

FUCK THIS MOVIE IN ITS EAR!

FUCK ITS DUMB SHOCKS.
FUCK REBECCA ROMIJN’S HAIR.
FUCK SCREENWRITER MARK BOMBACK.

Have you ever seen a movie that is quite literally unfinished? Released in theaters, seemingly by accident. Who are the people in charge who allow this? More so, who allowed me to use my fucking Amazon Prime trial account to watch this for free? They should pay me to watch it just so I can consume and regurgitate it. From the regurgitated ashes, I would build something better. Anything better. Anything without Cameron Bright.

Let’s begin.

So, getting right into it, there’s these two people. “Parents.” Played by honestly the most boring actor of the modern age Greg Kinnear (bland face, no presence, tepid sex appeal) and a tapeworm named Rebecca Romijn. When I was a kid, I thought of that name as “Row-midge-en.” I don’t know.

They’re these “cool, hip” parents who live in New York Cit-ay. Not just NYC, but in SoHo (or the East Villagey area). Kill me. The movie starts (after an opening credits sequence featuring blobs in utero that literally vibrated my headphones with their ominous rumbling) at a kid’s birthday party. Romijn is this punky cool mom (a stereotype that NEVER comes back and is only used here to force us to like her; it did NOT work), and Kinnear is expectedly smarmy and laidback and sexy only to women in coffins.

…There is a scene where Kinnear, on his way to his son’s birthday party, running through the gritty alleys of SoHo, is held up at a gunpoint for a total of forty seconds until the hoodlum realizes Kinnear is his ex-teacher. And so, Kinnear is released. And so, Kinnear continues running to his son’s birthday, unaffected…

This moment is NEVER referenced, never discussed, NOR does it serve the plot in ANY way.

Two minutes in and this is garbage; let’s please proceed.

After the birthday party, their son dies. Outside a Reebok store. It’s Rebecca’s fault.

They don’t know what to do. They act distraught. They try to plan the funeral. They visit a cemetery. They do what all normal grieving couples do: they allow Scraggly De Niro to accost them – before they’ve even buried their dead offspring.

Robert De Niro looks horrible. His outfit and facial hair were chosen by a detective dying of tuberculosis. It’s just nonsense. De Niro sits them down at a restaurant (um, a day since their child died; “Hey, let’s get a drink!”) and drops the following dialogue:

“I can help. I am a fertility doctor. My facility can allow you to birth a clone. You will have to sever all ties with family, with all friends, with anyone who ever knew your son. Your son’s cells will only be viable another 72 hours. We must act fast.”

LLLLIKE WWWWHHHHAAAAATTTT!?!?!?! It is NO WONDER no other actors took these roles! It’s no wonder the producers had to resort to Mystique from X-Men and fucking Greg Kinnear to carry this movie’s weight! No professionals even read past the first page!

How do the parents respond?

Kinnear to his Anonymous Rich Friend: Have you heard of doctor (De Niro’s character’s name)?

Anonymous Rich Friend: Of course! He is the stuff of legends!

Stop.

At the twenty minute mark of Shitsend, Kinnear and Romijn agree to the procedure. They agree to, mere days after their son’s death, enter a facility that can allow them to birth the son’s clone – and then raise the clone, in a secluded environment where no one can ever find them, and they can live a happy, crazy life in happycrazyland. I am NOT making this up. So then she, um, births a clone:

Here’s where I smack you in the face with an obvious statement: this plot is preposterous.

But. But but but… It could work. It could have worked in an alternate universe where Godsend is a gratuitous b-movie. Orphan was a hit. Even Joshua had some camp, while taking itself pretty seriously. But this movie is a fucking mistake. It takes itself seriously, and that’s the problem. It presents a catastrophically outrageous change in two parents’ lives, set against the backdrop of a Stepford-like community of similar-minded parents and their clonebabies. It presents an insane fantasy world and tries to be casual about it.

It should NEVER have been made.

I was expecting to the movie to… maybe have fun with its concept! Dare I imagine? Like, why not throw in some dramatically unbalanced supporting characters, people from this crazy underground gated community? Show us anyone even more unhinged than Romijn & Kinnear? Give us Laurie Metcalfe as a neighbor at the door with a quiche, even for a minute? What about a horrible government conspiracy? No. No fun. No conspiracies. Just an inexplicable vast town of isolated families totally unknown to the law. It’s fine.

So, they have their clonebaby, they raise him for nine years, they barely change their hairstyles or clothing choices over the course of a decade, and before you know it, their clone is now the same age as the original kid was when he died! Clones grow up so fast!

We have the Obligatory Sultry Sex Scene in a Drama About Child Loss, followed by the movie’s first remote inciting incident. This is horror, remember? You’re supposed to be shocked, and not just by Romijn’s acting and the self-serious tone?

The clone-kid starts falling into all sort of religious lighting and having nightmarish dreams… about himself? His dreams are constantly set inside very dirty public schools and connecting hallways. And he always looks like the saddest, youngest heroin addict. Oh, Cameron Bright… Who pushed you into Hollywood?

The parents ask De Niro what’s wrong with their kid, but of course De Niro doesn’t know shit! Or, ugh, he does, but he isn’t letting on. God damn it – we DON’T CARE. Just give us some camp sequences.

Just in time, we have our first comedy bit. Kinnear comes home from a “long day at work” in the SUV, and clone baby rides his bike straight into the car’s grille, loud enough for both parents to hear and be terrified. Romijn is unpacking groceries nearby (what else is a trophy wife to do in the fog-encrusted town of Diet Stepford?) and lets out the most hysterical, gutteral “OHH GODDDDDD!”

Nearly worth the price of free admission.

Nearly.

Then, clonebaby has more nightmares (completely unoriginal, uninspired, grainy dutch angles of “spooky girls!”), he spits in a teacher’s face, etc. At the 57-minute mark we get a game-changer, a.k.a. SOMETHING HAPPENS AFTER WATCHING THIS FOR TWO YEARS. Clonebaby looks up at Kinnear and says…

“Dad, did I die?”

A mystery develops: an embarrassingly overdone and unanswered yarn about De Niro’s secret kid who died, plus a schoolhouse burning down, disgruntled nannies, and a mean French lady? Regardless, around this point it will remind you of 2005′s Hide and Seek, also starring De Niro, which meant after 2004′s Godsend, he felt he didn’t yet have his fill of nonsensical PG-13 family horrors and NEEDED to make it a double bill. You also know De Niro was crazy at this time because he then produced 2006′s screen adaptation of Rent. Fuck all of that to hell.

The mystery grows muddled and frustrating. Too many additional unanswered questions, too many new characters, too many cheap jump scares, too many “concerned, piecing-it-all-together” marches through forests and woodsheds. Not enough camp moments, to be honest, but it’s still overblown enough to be faintly watchable.

At the climax, clonebaby-gone-crazy attacks Romijn, but she’s saved by Kinnear at the last second. When Kinner physically stops the kid, the kid is suddenly cured. This is not a joke. It’s actually played like the kid was possessed, but “the father’s touch of knowing, wise love” breaks the spell. This movie REALLY pulls out all the stops. Any genre tricks are game.

6 MONTHS LATER we abruptly cut away from that climax! What the fuck? Now we’re in a new home, and everyone’s covered in paint with rolled-up button downs.

Here’s where I admit I jumped — ONCE AND ONLY ONCE — at the one real scare… in the movie’s final five minutes:

Bloody hands pull clonebaby Cameron Bright into a closet. We think to ourselves, are the writers finally choosing an ending to the movie? Was the kid possessed? Was he the product of science gone awry? Did he represent the consequence of man’s delusions of abnormal creation? Was he just a little psychopath who somehow received the memories/genes of De Niro’s original crazy kid who died forever ago?

OH, NO, NONE OF THAT.

We have that scare, and then the SAME KID APPEARS ELSEWHERE IN THE ROOM. UNHARMED. KINNEAR WALKS IN, AND HUGS HIM.

DID THE KID GET SWITCHED OUT BY A DEMON!?

DID THAT SCARE MOMENT EVEN HAPPEN!?

WAIT– WHO– !??!

…ROLL CREDITS.

4% on rottentomatoes is enormously well deserved. “Few chills, ludicrous dialogie, by-the-numbers, and cheap shocks” – all true. It sucks, too: director Nick Hamm was behind 2001′s The Hole, which I LLLOVE because it makes Thora Birch look fat in a British accent.

The complete blandness of Godsend isn’t the result of the by-the-numbers format. It’s because of how long it takes to get any answers, and the many boring “dramatic” conversations it takes to get there, and finally, the fact that WE DON’T EVEN GET ANY ANSWERS! It presents a crazy sci-fi dystopia and some “twisty” supernatural-horror confusion… and it all ends in a maybe!

The two lead actors are achingly unappealing, and De Niro does nothing.

Worse of all is that Rebecca Romijn doesn’t have many screen credits. Really, just the X-Men movies… and this. A few enjoyable blockbusters, which would have been cool on their own… and Godsend. A colorful action saga… and this embarrassing piece of shit she can never erase.

Call us, Becky. We’ll let you go to voicemail and then discuss this over fajitas. We’ll conference-call Cameron Bright from the set of Twilight: Breaking Dawn Part Seventy Eight. He’ll tell us he was drunk for the whole Godsend shoot. And on a little crack, too.

RATING (OUT OF 5):

NONE

Godsend is Rated PG-13 for violence and an absence of Veronica Cartwright.

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About Ross

Ross studied film at Emerson while working for indie producers, and he critiques shit from a queer POV here and @GingerBredhaus. He also produced 2015 gay horror slasher comedy YOU'RE KILLING ME and creates immersive theater in NYC.