written by Mark Bomback
directed by Nick Hamm
starring Greg Kinnear, Rebecca Romjin-Stamos and Robert DeNiro
review by Stephen Notley
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 Romjin-Stamos and Robert DeNiro 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 gets stinkier from there.
We begin with Kinnear and Romjin-Stamos as impossibly happy and optimistic parents celebrating the impossibly happy and hopeful 8th 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 Romjin-Stamos descend into clunky and entirely predictable grief-scenes, only to be interrupted by Robert DeNiro looking vaguely satanic and offering to clone their kid. Kinnear, being the soft and squishy right-thinking fellow that he is, has doubts, but Romjin-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 8-years-later transition later we're back where we started except this time 8-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 DeNiro put screwy genes in him for some reason? Is there some Satanic angle 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, starting off with creepy nonsensical dreams, segueing into disruptive anti-social behavior 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 demeanor.
And so Godsend shlumps along with all the characters starting, middling and ending the same, Kinnear acting worried, Romjin-Stamos acting oblivious and DeNiro 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 forth to its conclusion, pausing only long enough to muddy everything up and give us a truly lame scene where Kinnear and DeNiro 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 the idea; 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, 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.