Starring: Robert DeNiro, Dakota Fanning, Famke Janssen, Elisabeth Shue, Dylan Baker, Melissa Leo, Amy Irving
Rated R for Frightening Sequences and Violence
"Hide and Seek" is as familiar as an old shoe and done worse than any of its other incarnations. I'm not going to mention any titles, but suffice it to say, I'd be willing to bet you've seen this movie before.
David Callaway (DeNiro) awakes in the middle of the night to a horrifying scenario: his wife Alison (Irving) has just died, having slashed her wrists in the bathtub. Worse still, his daughter Emily (Fanning) has seen the bloody aftermath. Despite his friend Katherine's (Janssen) advice (she's also his colleague), he decides to move upstate to get away from it all and let Emily heal. They move to a quiet town in upstate New York where everyone is friendly but suspicious. David hits it off with a young aunt named Elizabeth (Shue) who has a daughter Emily's age. But Emily has already made a new friend whom she calls "Charlie." Charlie is imaginary, which Katherine reassures David is okay, but then disturbing things start happening around Emily, making him wonder what is really going on.
This is what happens when you take a Z-list script and make mistakes all the way through. The story is lame and the execution is awful. I think the idea here is that with an all-star cast it would be salvageable, but that goes with the understanding that the actors are trying. That's definitely not the case here.
Robert DeNiro is rightfully considered to be one of the greatest actors who's ever lived. The list of stupendous performances to his name is astonishing. Travis Bickle in "Taxi Driver." Neil McCauley in "Heat." Dwight in "This Boy's Life." This, however, is not one of his finest moments. Whether he is miscast or simply not trying, DeNiro does not impress. His younger co-star, Dakota Fanning (who took a pay cut to have her name on the marquee next to DeNiro's), does what she can, but she's given so little to work with that even with her considerable talents, there's little that she can accomplish. Famke Janssen steals her scenes, but she's strictly supporting. The best performance goes to the always good Melissa Leo as a grieving mother, but her character is superfluous. Still, the film would have been better served had director John Polson concentrated on her.
Making movies is hard. Even if you've never tried, one can imagine the logistics needed to complete a feature film, much less make it a good one. Which is why I would tell John Paulson if I could that he should probably leave it to the professionals. This is Inept Filmmaking 101. This is a slow-burn mystery, but because he doesn't get the pacing right, it comes across as dull. Every thriller contains red herrings and twists, but the best ones only raise our suspicions and make us question what we think we know about where the film is going. Paulson highlights them with floodlights. And the climax, which should have been shocking, is catatonic (if the audience isn't asleep already).
With movies this bad, you gotta wonder why anyone thought this would be a good to film in the first place. I can't answer that.