Godsend? Not exactly.
In the opening moments of Godsend, schoolteacher Paul Duncan is mugged in an alleyway. As two young men demand his wallet, a look of stunned recognition crosses Paul's face and he blurts: "Maurice?" Turns out one of the hooligans was once Paul's student. Shamefaced, Maurice mumbles, "Sorry about this, Mr. Duncan," and convinces his partner to leave without the loot.
In the confrontation, Maurice admits that Duncan was "the best teacher I ever had." A number of scenes later, when Duncan's son has been killed and a maverick scientist named Richard Wells has approached him about creating a clone of the boy, the first person to call Paul with condolences just happens to be a doctor pal who supplies plenty of background info on Dr. Wells. In good movies, dialogue can slip necessary exposition in between the lines of whatever drama is taking place, without sounding like it was dropped there by unskilled laborers. Godsend is not a good movie.
In fact, Godsend is a monumentally dumb film, one whose climactic romps through fright-flick cliché might be entertaining if they weren't surrounded by such dullness. It should be Exhibit A when concerned friends of Robert De Niro (who plays the mad doctor - and plays him badly to boot, delivering wooden line readings like "maybe you can keep in mind what he does mean to me") stage a long-overdue intervention. (Then again, with Martin Scorsese making credit card ads and Harvey Keitel taking every straight-to-video role he's offered, who is left to accuse De Niro of slumming?)
Here, De Niro's Dr. Wells takes some genes from Paul's dead boy, plants them in Mrs. Duncan, and nine months later Adam II is born. Once the second child reaches the age at which the first one died, Adam II starts freaking out - and not because he's approaching puberty and his mom looks like Rebecca Romijn-Stamos. He has visions of dead children and occasionally seems possessed by another personality. He becomes glassy-eyed and is attracted to rusty, sharp-edged yard tools. Maybe he kills the school bully. Mr. Duncan begins to worry that he made a mistake with this whole cloning business.
From the name of the film (which is also the name of Wells' clinic) and its young villain to the church-like windows of the Duncan home and the Catholic school that pops up toward the end, Godsend is desperate to slather bogus religious overtones on a story that's already flawed by scientific standards. But the God business is all window dressing for a leaden screenplay that uses horror movie devices so hoary they would make the Friday the 13th folks blush. The real Godsend here would be for everyone involved to let this dud die a quick, if undignified, death. •
By John DeFore
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