The devil’s clone

Kinnear, Romijn-Stamos and De Niro (or possibly their evil duplicates) stink up Godsend

When will parents ever learn? If your kid dies, no matter how tragically, no
matter how wonderful and happy things were when he was alive, it’s a
fool’s game to try to clone him. It can only end in disaster, or in the
case of Godsend, a disastrous movie. Godsend is curiously top-heavy with
acting talent; its slate of Greg Kinnear, Rebecca Romijn-Stamos and Robert De
Niro is roughly equivalent to, say, Greg Kinnear, Helen Hunt and Jack
Nicholson in As Good As It Gets. And yet it’s all for naught; as soon
as the movie begins it’s kinda smelly and it only gets stinkier from
there. We begin with Kinnear and Romijn-Stamos as impossibly happy and
optimistic parents celebrating the impossibly happy and hopeful eighth
birthday of their impossibly happy and sweet-seeming son Adam. Sure enough,
all this impossible happiness soon proves not to be possible and one
car-related kid-crushing later, Kinnear and Romijn-Stamos descend into clunky
and entirely predictable grief scenes, only to be interrupted by a vaguely
Satanic-looking Robert De Niro, who offers to clone their kid. Kinnear, being
the soft and squishy right-thinking fellow that he is, has doubts, but
Romijn-Stamos has too much mommy movie-grief to let this once-in-a-lifetime
crappy opportunity go by, so she agrees to the procedure. One quick implant
and an eight-years-later transition later we’re back where we started,
except this time eight-year-old Adam is a clone. At this point, there’s
nothing for the audience to do except idly wonder How Shall This Kid Be Evil?
Will he be haunted by the ghost of his former self? Did De Niro put screwy
genes in him for some reason? Is there some Satanic angle waiting to be
revealed? That the answer turns out to be no, no and yes, but not in that
order, is little reward for having to put up with watching the Evil blandly
unfold. For evil Adam 2.0 proves to be. He starts off having creepy,
nonsensical dreams, segues into disruptive antisocial behaviour before moving
on to hungry glances at hatchets and the claw-ends of hammerheads. Now he
says cute things like “You know, I don’t think I like you so much
anymore” to his dad, plus we know he’s evil since his flat,
affectless “I’m Evil” stare contrasts sharply with his
pre-clone’s ridiculously joyful demeanour. And so Godsend shlumps along
with all the characters starting, middling and ending the same, Kinnear
acting worried, Romijn-Stamos acting oblivious and De Niro acting like
he’s got something to hide. An evil shed makes a few appearances,
there’s a visit to some woman’s house to have some boring piece
of the puzzle handed over and then the film dribbles its way toward its
conclusion, pausing only long enough to muddy everything up with a truly lame
scene in which Kinnear and De Niro argue in a church (’cuz this whole
situation’s just one big fat affront to God, see?) and then walk out
with everything on fire for some reason. It’s easy to understand the
appeal of Godsend’s premise; cloning is new and scary and presents all
kinds of unusual moral dilemmas to the aspiring filmmaker. The clone-movie is
a mini-genre waiting to be born. But Godsend’s wishy-washy Styrofoam
characters and not-so-scary scary bits hardly add up to anything compelling,
and its final twist does nothing except let the last puff of air wheeze out
of the story. Someday somebody will make a really good clone movie, one that
pushes us and makes us wonder what truly makes us human, yadda yadda yadda,
but Godsend ain’t it. V Godsend Directed by Nick Hamm • Written by
Mark Bomback • Starring Greg Kinnear, Rebecca Romijn-Stamos and Robert
De Niro • Opens Fri, Apr 30

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