2005-02-18 / Columnists

MovieScope

By Robert Snyder


Jumping from comedy to horror, the workaholic Robert De Niro has teamed up with the child-actor-of–the-moment Dakota Fanning to make the scream fest, “Hide and Seek.” It works well as a creep show until the finale when implausibility overwhelms the fear factor.

Directed by John Polson (“Swimfan”), the film uses a first-time screenplay by Ari Schlossberg, which follows Stanley Kubrick/Stephen King’s “The Shining” a bit too closely for its own good. In fact, it’s “The Shining” theft that ultimately upsets our faith in the film as a horror original.

Psychologist David Callaway (De Niro) is abruptly widowed when his wife, Allison (Amy Irving), takes a razor blade into the bathtub…or so we think. Nine-year-old daughter Emily (Fanning) witnesses the bloody scene and is sent into shock.

She compensates for her psychic pain by bonding with an imaginary friend named Charlie. Rather than hire a therapist, Dad buys a big house in the boondocks, where he, Emily and Charlie live in virtual isolation (some psychologist he is.)

Leaving pretty professional protégé Katherine (Famke Janssen) back in the Big Apple, David catches the eye of another beauty, Elizabeth, in his rural oasis. Elizabeth also has a young daughter, whom Emily dislikes after one visit.

Things get “curiouser and curiouser,” as blood red graffiti appears throughout the house as an ominous warning. Emily’s interpretation is that Charlie does not like David or Elizabeth. David demands that Charlie come out and confront him.

However, when he does, it is a big disappointment. He kills many of the cast members along with the movie itself.

Nevertheless, De Niro is such an excellent actor that he has the magical ability to make a bad movie look good. As for little Dakota, she’s becoming creepier than adult Macaulay Culkin and has Christina Ricci’s Wednesday, Addams beat, weird -wise.

Unless you’re a rabid De Niro fan, hide from this opening-week, number-one box office hit and seek it later in the video stores.

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