Bless the Child

on August 11, 2000 by Luisa F. Ribeiro
It isn't that "Bless the Child," an old-fashioned cult story of the Devil versus the Angels, is so bad; rather, in throwing away its impressive cast in an over-simplified story propped up by hollow thrills and cheesy special effects, it's strictly cable or direct-to-video fare and has no business cluttering up theatres, even on the downside of summer.

Kim Basinger appears ill at ease playing stoic single nurse Maggie O'Connor, whose strung-out sister Jenna (Angela Bettis) presents her with a week-old baby before disappearing one Christmas Eve. Maggie rises to the responsibility of motherhood admirably, even when baby Cody is diagnosed as possibly autistic. Six years pass with Cody, under the tutelage of nuns at a special school, developing into a gentle soul with surprising gifts.

A series of brutal child murders alarm the community, and Maggie receives a strange warning from a young addict (Christina Ricci) connecting the murders to Cody. Enter FBI investigator John Travis (Jimmy Smits, sleepwalking in "NYPD Blue" mode), a seminary school drop-out who is the Bureau's cult and ritual murder expert. Added to the mix is Jenna's return as the wife of a suspicious self-help organization's leader, Eric Stark (Rufus Sewell, looking as if he wished he was anywhere but there), and Cody's abrupt if unsurprising disappearance.

Night marish visions, death threats and advice from an occult expert (Ian Holm, the saddest waste of talent here) all lead to a few mildly engaging chase scenes, but too many shots of hovering gargoyles and teeming rats provide laughable effects and little suspense. A better script or stronger direction might have helped, but without either, this one goes to the Devil. Starring Kim Basinger, Rufus Sewell, Jimmy Smits, Ian Holm and Christina Ricci. Directed by Chuck Russell. Written by Tom Rickman, Clifford Green and Ellen Green. Produced by Mace Neufeld. A Paramount release. Thriller. Rated R for violence, drug content and brief language. Running time: 108 min

Tags: Starring Kim Basinger, Rufus Sewell, Jimmy Smits, Ian Holm, Christina Ricci, Directed by Chuck Russell. Written by Tom Rickman, Clifford Green, Ellen Green, Produced by Mace Neufeld, Paramount, Thriller

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