A first-rate concept for a spine-tingling tale of voodoo, hoodoo and possible hauntings in the swampy Louisiana bayou, "The Skeleton Key" is rendered impotent by bland, generic execution.
The wannabe chiller stars Kate Hudson as a New Orleans hospice nurse named Caroline who takes a job at a remote, run-down plantation manor, looking after a mute and paralyzed elderly stroke victim (played with eerie, deceptive vacancy by John Hurt) in what will probably be his last weeks of life.
Caroline is selfish, snooping and disrespectful (having an unsympathetic heroine is another of the movie's problems), so soon she beings sticking her nose where it doesn't belong -- opening attic doors that have been locked for decades and digging into the house's history. Doing so raises the ire of her patient's bitterly old-fashioned and superstitious Southern wife (Gena Rowlands), but more importantly it puts the skeptical Caroline on a path toward believing in the ghosts of lynched former servants that the old lady claims haunt the place.
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Is anybody else getting tired of doofus dad comedies? I don't know about you, but I'm pretty sure I've seen every emasculating joke there could be about stereotypically incompetent men being left alone with their kids and bungling everything while their wives are away. But here comes "Cheaper by the Dozen" anyway.
A loose remake of a 1950 laffer about a huge turn-of-the-century family headed by a stern efficiency expert, this version spends its opening voice-over explaining how Tom and Kate Baker (Steve Martin and Bonnie Hunt) ended up with 12 kids in this age of easy contraception before it launches into a multiple helping of the same old themes of clueless parents and kiddie chaos.
Escaped pet frogs and butt-biting dogs abound even before the plot kicks in, seeing the family move from their rural Illinois homestead to the hustle and bustle of Chicago when Dad, now a college football coach (in an abandonment of the original's most essential ingredient), is offered his dream job heading the team at his Division One alma mater.
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