2004-05-21 / Columnists

MovieScope By Robert Snyder

MovieScope By Robert Snyder

‘Godsend’ – Mad Doctor De Niro

When we see actor Robert De Niro sporting a Vandyke beard, he’s sure to be playing a bad guy — no matter how concerned and caring he behaves.

In "Angel Heart," bearded Bob was Louis Cyphre (Lucifer, get it?), who led Mickey Rourke’s character to lose his soul. Now with "Godsend," the Oscar-winning actor takes a shot at portraying a mad doctor, much like the crazed physician, Frankenstein (It should be noted De Niro once did perform at the other end of the operating table as the infamous Mary Shelley monster).

Written by Mark Bombeck, "Godsend" has an inspired insane scientist premise: When a young couple’s beloved only child is killed in a car accident, eminent geneticist Dr. Richard Wells (De Niro) offers the distraught parents the option of bringing the boy back by cloning. It’s illegal and immoral, but what the heck? Little Adam Duncan (big-eyed Cameron Bright) can be re-created...thereby, correcting the tragedy of the fatal car crash. Dr. Wells whisks Paul and Jessie Duncan (Greg Kinnear and Rebecca Romijn-Stamos) to a secluded estate in the boondocks.  She is then fertilized at the nearby Godsend Institute for Reproductive Medicine. The Duncans sever all past ties and pledge a vow of secrecy. Everything is groovy as Adam 2 grows to look and act identical to Adam 1 until after the boy’s eighth birthday, the age that the authentic Adam was killed. It seems that cloned DNA carries with it memories of the first life (or lives, as we later discover). Apparently, Adam 2 has a few unforeseen psycho genes, thanks to the muddying of his metabolism by demented Doctor Wells.

The maniac child story now established, "Godsend" instantly loses its sci-fi originality and becomes another, well, maniac child story... as in "Friday the 13th"  and "Halloween." It also becomes painfully obvious that much re-editing was done since the film’s first release date last fall. The scientifically-intriguing cloning idea defused, Director Nick Hamm struggles to fit a clever climax on his horror show. What we’re left with are several false stops, which seem to signal (is it possible?) a sequel.

De Niro remains restrained throughout the film, other than in one "Raging Bull" outburst. But, his outrage is understandable: He’s great actor in a good movie gone bad.

Maybe, it’s best to leave clones alone.

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