Never mind that first-time screenwriter
Mark Bomback sets up Rebecca Romijn-Stamos as Adam's mom,
Jessie, to be somewhat inattentive and too shallow to consider
any responsibility for the boy's death. Not that it is
her fault, necessarily. However, it does seem strange for
a woman who makes a point to her son of looking both ways
before they cross a city street to then let him bounce a
new basketball on that same street while wearing a Walkman
as she waits at the cash register to pay for said ball.
In the land of movie omens, you just know that all those
little elements have to add up to something terrible.
Jessie's lack of reflection helps drive
the plot. When a former college professor (Robert De Niro)
shows up at Adam's funeral offering to clone him, well,
she doesn't even stop to think about it. Only her husband
Paul (Greg Kinnear), a high school biology teacher, has
doubts. Even then, it doesn't really hit either one that
maybe something has gone horribly wrong until after the
second Adam's eighth birthday, when something goes horribly
But not in a fun way. Godsend is
so busy being a serious film discussing the consequences
of cloning that it can't decide what to do about the horror
movie that keeps intruding.
Once the horror elements are introduced,
vaguely supernatural at times, just a little too convenient
at others, you cannot focus on the issue at hand. To keep
things on track, Hamm and his cast play things with great
earnestness. If everybody can look really serious, maybe
people will understand that cloning is an important issue
facing our society today. Please pretend that dead boy isn't
lurking in the bathroom. We just threw him in to get backing.
That earnestness messes up the structure
a bit, too. At its heart, Godsend centers around
a small boy discovering some dark secrets about his past,
and then some. Because we are meant to be grappling with
the ethical issue, however, we're always a couple of steps
ahead of Adam. We pretty much know who that faceless boy
in the red jacket is, even if Adam doesn't. And Hamm refuses
to indulge us, a restrained choice that would be admirable
if the movie were more compelling. Though the script pulls
an unsurprising but hilariously delivered third act twist,
most of the suspense has long been drained away.
De Niro's Dr. Wells, of course, holds all
the answers. Partly due to casting and partly due to some
odd directorial choices, it's obvious from the beginning
that though a genius, Wells is barking mad. Half-seducing
Jessie with elaborate home made meals and freezing up whenever
Paul asks too many questions, Wells obviously hides something.
But it's his clanking metal balls that should really raise
eyebrows. Sure, now a lot of people have them, but in the
movies, it's been a sure sign of mental deterioration since
The Caine Mutiny.
It's obvious why the cast would be attracted
to this project. Like it or not, cloning is a hot button
issue. Actors like Kinnear and Romijn-Stamos could use some
meaty serious roles in their resumes, and once upon a time,
working with De Niro could give you instant credibility.
But the script gives them so little to actually do.
To her credit, Romijn-Stamos plays a mom
surprisingly well. Again, Jessie seems a little too non-reflective,
but her grief is palpable, which makes her later denial
in the face of strong evidence Adam just ain't right plausible.
Kinnear almost reaches for something, but he's blandly charming
as a matter of reflex, and just not developed. In the opening
sequence, we get a sense that he's actually quite a good
teacher, but it never really matters.
It takes eight years for this supposedly
sharp biology teacher to reach any real conclusions about
the possible ramifications of cloning his son. For the purposes
of the horror story, it has to take that long, because the
problems shouldn't start until Adam II lives longer than
his predecessor. But it's just not believable. If you last
into the second hour, you'll also find it unbelievable that
the movie still takes itself so seriously. Worse, you'll
find it unbelievable that you made it into the second hour.