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BLESS THE CHILD

Review by Alex Haberstroh

Stars:  Kim Basinger, Jimmy Smits, Holliston Coleman, Rufus Sewell, Christina Ricci
Director:  Chuck Russell
Audio:  Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby Surround
Video: 
2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Studio:  Paramount
Features:  See Review
Length:  107 Minutes
Release Date:  February 13, 2001

Film **

Hollywood’s insatiable fascination with the occult and the devil’s minions has produced a genre that is often both boring and lifeless.  For every good film that scares the living crap out of you like The Exorcist, or The Omen, exists many a horrible counterpart like Stigmata or the recent Lost Souls (shudder!).  It seems that writing a supernatural thriller is a very treacherous road to walk without stumbling along the way.  On the one hand, as a writer, you don’t want to have a film that only consists of cheap scares, but on the other hand, you also don’t want to go too far and make the viewer feel like he’s watching something with a slow and boring pace.  The latter sadly describes Bless the Child, a film that was largely ignored at the box office by both critics and audiences alike.  

The story of Bless the Child isn’t that complicated.  Maggie O’ Connor (Basinger), aunt and surrogate mother to a girl with suspected autism, must save her child with the help of Special Agent John Travis (Smits), from a bunch of Satanic worshipping guys led by the evil Eric Stark (Rufus Sewell), who want to use her power to bring a new era of evil to mankind (okay, forget mankind, what the hell is with his eye?!?! that’s what creeped me out the whole film!). 

The main problem with Bless the Child is simple: pacing.  Without reading the rest of the review, you could probably go to a thesaurus, look up all the synonyms of the word “slow,” and be able to effectively review this movie.  Although the film is only roughly an hour and a half, it feels like it’s more than two hours.  The director just needed to cut some extraneous scenes, instead of continuing them without direction or purpose. 

The second problem is acting. Basinger, whose character is supposed to be extremely protective of the niece that she raised since birth, finds that the niece has been kidnapped and must be saved, not only for Basinger, but also for the world.  Needless to say, she should be upset.  Instead, Basinger, lifeless as a teabag in her performance, seems to act like she’s not going after her niece, but rather a bag of chips.  This naturally takes a lot of the thrill out of the story and not even Jimmy Smits (who should have had the major role) could save the viewer from the ensuing boredom.  

Video ****

The anamorphic picture was fine.  This movie utilizes a kaleidoscope of colors, from dark, dank basements and rainy alleys to the occasional shots of what looked to be a part of Central Park.  Overall, this transfer was very nice and a standard of excellence that Paramount seems to easily hit.  I noticed no problems concerning shimmering and I especially enjoyed how well done the CGI turned out in this film, such as with changing of faces to demons (The Devil’s Advocate rip off!) and the angels that came down to save the day.

Audio ***

As with the video department, Paramount easily reaches the mark of quality in their audio transfers.  The dialogue mainly came out of the center channel and surrounds while the majority of sound effects came from the front soundstage.  I still enjoyed the occasional scenes that used the surrounds aggressively, especially around the 30-minute mark and the intro where the wonderful tenor and bass voices sound incredibly full and feel incredibly ominous.  The only major complaint I had was the underused .1 LFE track.      

Supplements **1/2

Included were a trailer, cast and crew interviews, which lasted for about ten minutes and were the typical promos that consisted of  “everyone I worked with on this project is SO gifted and wonderful,” and a commentary track by Director Chuck Russell and Visual Effects Supervisor Jol Hynek.  Original TV spots were advertised as well but none are on there.        

Summary:

In conclusion, this film is a tired, failed attempt at a supernatural thriller.  Rent this if you only want to see a lot of clichés in this genre, such as the only people who believe in God have thick accents, whether Jamaican, Spanish, German, English, or Irish.  Recommended only as a “date film” that you won’t really be watching.