Godsend does a lot of things badly, and it does very little very well. Even the presence of Robert De Niro can’t seem to help this formula-driven thriller.
PG-13 for Violence, frightening images, sexuality
Greg Kinnear and Rebecca Romijn-Stamos are Paul and Jeanie, a perfect yuppie couple. He teaches at an inner-city school and she’s an art photographer. Somehow, they manage to drive a brand new SUV and tastefully decorate their apartment in New York City — a trick quite a few teachers and artists would probably like to know.
They also spend their money spoiling their son Adam (Cameron Bright), who is, of course, a perfect, charming, smart eight-year old. He has to be perfect, you see, because he is a sacrifice to the plot god. His accidental death sets things in motion.
Dr. Richard Wells (Robert De Niro) approaches Jeanie and Paul with an indecent proposal. He knows Jeanie is sterile can’t produce any more kids, and he offers to clone Adam and implant the cell into Jeanie. In 9 months, they have another baby, just like the last one.
Before long, Adam (the second one) is eight. Soon thereafter he starts having visions, or night terrors, or possibly “cellular memories” of his past life. These visions define the movie’s key conflict: what are they and why is Adam having them now that he’s eight?
Looking for a Niche
As a thriller, there are a few good, chilling moments. But on the whole, it lacks focus. Afterwards, I was able to figure out that the key question is: “What’s behind the night terrors?” But if you don’t know that to begin with, you won’t realize it until the end of the second act. That’s a long time for a movie to drift without a focal point.
It turns out the movie is a mystery. There is a solution and a revelation at the end, but since the movie doesn’t leave a trail of clues, it’s impossible to get involved with it as a mystery. It doesn’t work as science fiction because the science is just wrong. Even Star Trek was usually within the realm of the possible. As a drama, Godsend is not very interesting. It offers no themes about parental responsibility like Frankenstein does, nor about puberty like Jumanji does.
Instead, Godsend offers only mad scientists and nightmares. It’s a bland story with only a moderately timely premise going for it. That’s not enough for a feature film. Mark Godsend “return to sender.”