Genetic manipulation is a modern parallel of the Frankenstein experiment: a symbol of humanity's immoral attempt to play God, with dire consequences. Since Dolly the sheep was cloned, Hollywood has been trying to milk it -- the clone idea, not the sheep -- for its horror potential. Godsend tries to exploit the immorality issue by representing cloning as an abomination equivalent to demonic possession. The real abomination however is the horrid film itself -- a botched clone of past horror movies.
Paul and Jesse Duncan (Greg Kinnear and Rebecca Romijn-Stamos) have a fulfilling life with their son Adam (Cameron Bright) until, just after his eighth birthday, a swerving car kills the boy. At the funeral, genetic researcher Dr. Richard Wells (Robert De Niro) confronts the couple about cloning Adam. Paul, a highly ethical character, refuses until Jesse's nonstop blubbering wears him down. They agree to the illegal procedure, which entails Witness-Protection-Program-style secrecy. The good doctor relocates them to a perfect little town to raise their new son, whom they foolishly rename Adam.
Adam then starts having nightmares involving a crispy-fried kid named Zachary, who jumps out of closets and bathtubs to attack him. Adam starts hopscotching between his own nauseatingly saccharine personality and the phantom's anti-social disposition.
For the rest of the film, Paul argues with disingenuous Dr. Wells about ethics while Jesse blindly accepts that Adam just has night terrors. Finally, Paul does a modicum of research, finds out a 'terrible secret' and returns just in time to save his family from self-destruction.
The biggest horror in Godsend is the acting. Kinnear plays a father as convincingly as Sylvester Stallone might play a gay artist. His banter is stilted like a caring-dad parody. Romijn-Stamos works up some acceptable hysterics, but her character's expressionless gullibility would be comedic if not so tedious. Robert De Niro plays Robert De Niro, as in all his films, but here he lacks the underlying evil that permeates past roles.
Cameron Bright's annoying acting was the ultimate terror. Bright plays Adam's evil side with soap opera dramatics. Eviler still is Bright's nice-kid portrayal. His cloying personality and unctuous smile would work perfectly on Barney the Dinosaur. (Perhaps if Bright's evil side murdered the goofy purple theropod, I might recant my judgment.)
If the point of Godsend was to include umpteen 'bad seed' and demon cliches and worn-out symbols (the name Adam is hardly original), then the movie is a success. Worse, famed British-theater director Nick Hamm presents a potholed plotline, which he tries to mask with cheap thrills. He uses 'closet monster' gags and musical theatrics instead of building psychological tension through dialogue and believable narrative. Throw in a conveniently abandoned forest shack, an uninvestigated murder, and a last-minute character with all the answers to create one stinker of a movie.
Godsend tries desperately to be The Omen or The Sixth Sense. Unfortunately, it plays more like a TBS Superstation original movie without the relief of commercial breaks. The only godsend in this movie was when the ending credits started to roll.
MOVIE REVIEW: 'GODSEND'