And to open August, enter Bless the Child, possibly the worst movie I've seen this year. Well, after Mission to Mars.
Swallow hard before reading this ridiculous plot synopsis, which I can already tell is going to be painful to type. In a nutshell, Jesus has returned to earth in the form of a little girl (Holliston Coleman), who is abandoned by her druggie mother (Angela Bettis) as an infant, to be raised by Aunt Maggie (Kim Basinger). Six years later, Satan's minions are out to kill the girl, of course. And this year, Satan's head minion is a New Agey creep named Eric Stark (Rufus Sewell), determined to convert the Jesus girl to The Dark Side before Easter... or else she must die! (I guess they picked Easter because, you know, they missed the whole millennial paranoia genre window by about a year.) Enter an occult-expert FBI agent (Jimmy Smits) and you've got a kind of cop-thriller-paranormal Sixth Sense wannabe that makes apocalyptic pap like End of Days look like The Seventh Seal.
While young Coleman is a gifted actress, the movie has her doing little more than beating her head against the wall, hugging people, or spinning stuff with her magical powers (backed up by lousy digital effects). Basinger proves that, yes, L.A. Confidential was a total fluke and that she can't act after all. And Sewell appears to be channeling Dr. Evil for his goofy bad guy role. While Christina Ricci is being used to sell this film to the unsuspecting masses, her part is barely a cameo comprising three minutes of screen time.
But bad acting doesn't kill Bless the Child, it's the bad plot that aborts this production. Driven by randomness, coincidence, and just plain stupidity on the part of the characters, the movie wanders from scene to scene with little more purpose than filling 100 minutes before we get to the inevitable showdown at the end. This has been a successful M.O. for action films for a century -- but few have had the gall to try to work in a God vs. Devil plot.
The film is so over the top that Maggie's car, when falling off a bridge, can't just splash into the water -- it has to explode into flames on the way down. The film is so derivative it actually steals lines from other movies (notably a slight variation on "The greatest trick the devil pulled was convincing the world he didn't exist" from The Usual Suspects). And the film is so amazingly obvious that you expect Stark's limo to have "666" on the license plates.
Altogether, Bless the Child is almost bad enough to become a cult classic.
No pun intended.
Bless the child, burn the prints.
Run time: 107 mins
Box Office USA: $28.1M
Distributed by: Paramount Pictures
Production compaines: Paramount Pictures, Munich Film Partners & Company (MFP) GHS Productions, Icon Entertainment International
Contactmusic.com: 1.5 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 3%
Fresh: 3 Rotten: 109
IMDB: 5.0 / 10
Director: Chuck Russell
Producer: Mace Neufeld
Starring: Kim Basinger as Maggie O'Connor, Angela Bettis as Jenna, Holliston Coleman as Cody, Rufus Sewell as Eric Stark, Christina Ricci as Cheri Post, Jimmy Smits as Agemt John Travis, Michael Gaston as Det. Frank Bugatti, Lumi Cavazos as Sister Rosa, Dimitra Arliss as Dahnya, Eugene Lipinski as Stuart, Anne Betancourt as Maria, Ian Holm as Reverend Grissom, Helen Stenborg as Sister Joseph, Matthew Lemche as New Dawn Kid at Van, Dan Warry-Smith as New Dawn Kid
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