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"Hide and Seek"

Directed by John Polson.
Written by Ari Schlossberg.
Starring Robert De Niro, Dakota Fanning, Famke Janssen and Elisabeth Shue.
Release Year:  2005
Review Date:  2/6/05


I lost faith in Robert De Niro years ago, but it would be nice to see him take at least a couple of more edgy films now and then just to make us remember that for a long time, many critics thought he was our greatest living actor...not the kind of guy that would make movies like "The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle", or "Showtime", or "City by the Sea."  The latest slap in the face?  Commercial work for American Express; the ads themselves are fine, it's just weird seeing De Niro doing fee-based commerical work for a freaking credit card company.

And now, we get a spookfest, "Hide and Seek."  Here we get De Niro playing psychologist David Callaway, married father of a beautiful young girl named Emily (Dakota Fanning); David loses his wife to suicide as the movie opens.  To help his little girl's emotional state--and, to some degree, his own--David takes his daughter and moves outside of New York City, to a country home in a quiet neighborhood where they can concentrate on becoming a family again.  Without any other kids in the neighborhood, Emily resorts to making up an imaginary friend named Charlie...but, kooky stuff starts happening around the house and to the neighbors, so David starts to investigate just who this Charlie guy really is.

I must have said it to myself five times, but I kept asking myself, "What the hell is Bob De Niro doing in this movie??"  The script is flat-out boring, much like the empty scarefest "What Lies Beneath" was; for a while, all we get in terms of scares are cats that meow too loud or doors that ominously shut closed.  We meet a couple of David's neighbors, including the surprisingly-still-hot Elisabeth Shue as a friend/babysitter, who register for a little while as a change-up to watching De Niro act like he is reflecting, or curious, or plain old bored.  But, as slow as most of this is, I found it surprisingly watchable, due to the need to satiate my curiosity regarding the twist that would have to surface eventually on just who this Charlie is.

This makes "Hide and Seek" a tough one--I was interested to see how the script would explain the Charlie character, and once they did, I was fairly satisfied.  But, then...well, the film doesn't just end right there, and with a twist like this one, it needed to end right away but it doesn't.  So, we get another 15 minutes of crap, killing even the reasonably cool twist that comes up near the end.  When I broke it all down when the film was over, there's really about 30 minutes of film stretched into a 105-minute final product...which doesn't do anything but frustrate you if you aren't invested in seeing whodunit.

While De Niro is average in the film, Fanning continues to impress with a nice diversity to her parts.  I have seen Fanning in "i am sam" and "Man on Fire"; here in "Hide and Seek", her blank eyes do most of the talking for her to scary effect.  She's in like five more films this year and next, so I'm excited to see if she will turn this into something special, like Jodie Foster...or, something not so special, like Mac Culkin.  (Anyone seen Haley Joel Osment, by the way??)  The other support actors seemed to sign a "act-as-blah-as-possible" agreement with the studio; Dylan Baker, Shue and Janssen all seem to have nothing to say and no interesting way to say it; none of this even helps with keeping the mood of the film consistent, it just helps to make you even more sleepy by the middle of the movie.

I don't know, I have a sick need to see all of these not-quite-horror films, so if you are like me, then watching "Hide and Seek" to get to its twist might be worthwhile.  Otherwise, save yourself the trouble and watch something better on DVD.

Rating:  Matinee


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09