HIDE AND SEEK
Review by Gordon Justesen
Robert De Niro, Dakota Fanning, Famke Janssen, Elisabeth Shue, Amy Irving, Dylan
Director: John Polson
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, DTS 5.1, French Dolby Surround, Spanish Dolby Surround
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.40:1
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Features: See Review
Length: 101 Minutes
Release Date: July 5, 2005
why would you do this?”
What I’ve noticed
lately is a trend amongst moviegoers. When going to see a suspense thriller with
a secretive plot, audiences always want to play detective and see if they can
guess the big surprise that’s going to occur in the films end. I’ve always
been hip to the idea of letting a movie unfold before you, but in the case of Hide
and Seek, both kinds of viewers get cheated big time.
The movie plays
like an M. Night Shyamalan film on complete auto-pilot. It sinks to the lowest
level of the suspense genre with its establishing of a plot device, and getting
the viewer built up for what should be a fantastic finale. It manages to add
insult to injury by unleashing an alleged “surprise twist” that is simply as
cheap as they come. It’s too unfortunate that so many talented people
couldn’t realize that they were attached to a most weak project, least of all
Robert De Niro.
The story begins in
New York City, where psychologist David Callaway (De Niro) wakes up in the
middle of the night to discover his wife, Allison (Amy Irving), dead in the
bathtub. She’s taken her own life in a most grisly manner. Both David, and his
young daughter, Emily (Dakota Fanning), are stunned with horror.
The death has a
larger effect on Emily, who has barely spoken a word since it occurred. David
suggests to his colleague, Katherine (Famke Janssen), that the best thing for
the two of them is to move away from the city, to a much more quiet setting
upstate. From his perspective, it will help to erase all the painful memories
Emily is harboring.
The father and
daughter are soon relocated to that exact area, residing in a most beautiful and
secluded home in the brushy mountain-laced area. The signs of a new life
beginning start to appear, in the form of friendly neighbors, as well as a local
single mother (Elisabeth Shue) who starts taking a liking to David, and has a
daughter the same age as Emily.
For Emily, though,
starting over isn’t as easy. She only gets joy from one thing; a new friend
named Charlie. David is baffled by the news his daughter delivers. The only
thing is Charlie is a “secret” friend, meaning that he only talks to Emily
when she is all alone. David is convinced that Charlie isn’t a real person,
and that she has created an imaginary friend as a result of the trauma she
Then (ALL TOGETHER
NOW) strange incidents start to occur. David awakes in the middle of the night
to find message scrolled in blood in the bathroom. Horrified by the notion that
his own daughter could’ve done something like this, she says it was Charlie
who did it.
It all leads to
endless scenes of more bizarre happenings, followed by a loud exchange between
David and Emily, which is repeated countless times. That’s the first thing
that becomes quickly unbearable in the movie. Then, thinking it will slap the
audience in the face, the movie sinks into the ground with a final revelation
that makes the audience want to slap back at the screen. All I can say that
it’s a pure insult to all great twist endings.
Trust me when I say
that this ending will never be mentioned in the same league as that of Arlington
Road, Fight Club, Identity, Seven, Unbreakable or The
Usual Suspects, films that executed their twists with sheer brilliance. Even
The Village, whose ending was rejected
greatly by the masses, is a much more masterful execution than the pure cop-out
that Hide and Seek administers.
To make matters
worse, the twist adds a whole new kind of element to the movie that is very
depressing to think about. Once this registers in your mind with the last shot
in the movie, it’s very hard to forgive Hide
and Seek for the sorry excuse for entertainment value.
As for Robert De
Niro, whose work in films like Casino
and Heat are reminders that he’s one
of the greatest actors of all time; it begs one to ponder why such an
accomplished actor, with many films to his credit, would waste his time with
such lackluster material. For all I know, he needed the money, but this movie
never deserves to be mentioned in the same sentence with the likes of Cape
Fear and Taxi Driver.
young Dakota Fanning, who’s fast on her way to becoming a bigger than life
star. I mean, before she came along, I had no idea children that young could act
so marvelously. With her track record of light fluffy material, it’s clear
that she was pressed to appear in this film just to showcase that she can be in
this R rated film just because that alone might surprise people. Here’s hoping
that she can rid herself of this movie soon, because I was reminded of the same
mistake Macaulay Culkin made when he against type in the R rated, and God-awful,
The Good Son.
unquestionably one of the worst films of the year. To sum it up perfectly, Hide
from this movie and Seek something
No complaints here,
as this anamorphic release from Fox (Full Screen available separately) once
again demonstrates the studio’s commitment to top quality. The one thing I
neglected to mention about the movie was its only positive quality, and that is
the look of it. Cinematographer Dariusz Wolski (Pirates of the Caribbean, Dark City) does a very good job of helping
to capture the mood of the setting with his maneuvering of the camera. Picture
quality is crisp, clear and wonderfully detailed, even in the darkly lit shots,
which they are many of.
The 5.1 mix,
offered in both Dolby Digital and DTS, delivers the power-sounding goods.
Despite the label of a suspense thriller, the first 2/3 of the movie is actually
dialogue driven, with a scene or two of momentary suspense. It isn’t until the
last half of the movie where the sound jolt really kicks in, and the sound mix
supplied here gets the job done at a high level. Words are spoken in smooth
clarity, music playback is well executed, and the surround sound comes very well
into play by way of various set pieces.
Fox does something
a little neat with this release, which is allowing you the option to watch 4
separate versions of the movie, each with a different “alternate ending”,
which can also be viewed separately. Also included is a commentary with director
John Polson, screenwriter Ari Schlossberg and editor Jeffrey Ford, 14
Deleted/Extended Scenes with optional commentary, a display of Rough Conceptual
Sequences, and a 10 minute making-of featurette.
Despite the level
of talent involved, Hide and Seek is
quite simply a weak attempt at a suspense thriller. It becomes more and more
unsatisfying as it progresses, and ends on an even more unsatisfying note.
It’s a movie that fails easily where so many others have succeeded.