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Dustin Putman



Dustin's Review

Godsend (2004)
2 Stars

Directed by Nick Hamm
Cast: Greg Kinnear, Rebecca Romijn-Stamos, Cameron Bright, Robert De Niro, Janet Bailey
2004 – 102 minutes
Rated: Rated PG-13 (for violence, sexual situations, and thematic material).
Reviewed by Dustin Putman, May 1, 2004.

"Godsend" has a provocative whopper of a premise, and then opts to waste its potential in favor of a barrage of cheap jump scares and clumsy plotting. For a film that has been sitting on the shelf for nearly a year, one would assume director Nick Hamm and studio Lions Gate would have used the extra time to fine-tune its many problems. A total of seven different endings were allegedly shot, and if the discouraging, anticlimactic non-ending found the final product is any indication, the worst of the seven was used. "Godsend" takes its time in building tension, but there is no payoff.

Paul (Greg Kinnear) and Jessie Duncan (Rebecca Romijn-Stamos) are devastated when their cherubic son, Adam (Cameron Bright), is killed in a freak car accident the day after his eighth birthday. They are visited after the funeral by Dr. Richard Wells (Robert De Niro), head scientist at the Godsend Institute, who makes them an offer. He believes to have perfected the illegal cloning procedure, and by taking a single cell from Adam and injecting it into Jessie, they could conceive an exact replica of their late son. Paul and Jessie agree in a moment of tortured grief, and nine months later, Adam is born once more. All seems to be fine for the couple until Adam passes the age in which he died. Suddenly, Adam is plagued by horrible nightmares and, little by little, takes on psychopathic tendencies.

"Godsend" poses a lot of questions, some of which are answered by the conclusion, but as the ridiculous plot developments mount further questions arise that the film is not confident enough to satisfactorily wrap up. Who is the young boy Adam sees in his visions who goes by the name of Zachary? Why is Adam taking on a double personality, that of the sweet boy Paul and Jessie know and a more violent and creepy youngster possibly capable of murder? What is Dr. Richard Wells hiding from the distressed couple? Director Nick Hamm and screenwriter Mark Bomback address these perplexities in a half-hearted manner, going as far as to set up the downbeat, but natural progression the story seems to be headed toward and then not having the courage to go through with it. And because the makers were too lazy or just didn't care, one noticeably huge plot hole is left hanging in the balance, making the entire picture more irrational than it needed to be.

For a while, at least, the movie is deceptively well made. The opening scenes are delicately handled in a truthful manner, as Jessie and Paul struggle to come to terms with their son's untimely passing. The first couple nightmares Adam experiences are also reasonably effective, with one scene set in a bathtub expertly nerve-rattling, but before long it becomes apparent that director Hamm has no idea where he is taking the characters and their predicament. The film creaks as it goes through the worn-out, watered-down motions of a PG-13 slasher movie wannabe, and then maddeningly ends without any sense of closure or respect for its leads.

The actors try to mask the picture's inadequacies, but to no avail. Their fine performances, including that of Greg Kinnear (2003's "Stuck on You"), Rebecca Romijn-Stamos (2004's "The Punisher"), and Robert De Niro (2001's "15 Minutes"), are at the service of a mediocre script. Eventually, the down-to-earth roles they have worked to create in the first act get lost in the shuffle of a lot of running and screaming. "Godsend" is a classic case of a motion picture not adequately ready when filming commenced, and the sloppy unevenness of the proceedings lays testament to this. The whole movie is a brooding, atmospheric lark on a road to nowhere.
© 2004 by Dustin Putman
Dustin Putman