Secret Window

on March 12, 2004 by Tim Cogshell
Notice that the name of novelist Stephen King is nowhere to be found in the promotion of this adaptation of his novella, "Four Past Midnight: Secret Window, Secret Garden." There was a time when his name preceded the title, and it was an asset. This is just called "Secret Window," and the posters feature just the title and a big photo of star Johnny Depp--the film's only real asset.

Indeed, following the insipid "Dreamcatcher" and the just plain bad TV adaptations of "The Shining," "The Stand" and "Carrie," the moniker of King might have been even more detrimental to this fairly mundane thriller than the trite "cracked personality" scenario that's supposed to provide its central revelation. That's not a spoiler. Those who have read the novel already know, and those who haven't have seen the plot play out so many times before in other films they'll think they already knew, even though Johnny Depp as writer Mort Rainey diligently tries to distract us. He's funny throughout, but at the beginning of the film, when Rainey catches his wife (Maria Bello of "The Cooler") sleeping with Timothy Hutton ("Sunshine State"), he makes you think you're in better film. He provides another one of those quirky, slightly loony performances he finally got nominated for in "Pirates of the Caribbean."

As for the story, Rainey is an author who is accused of plagiarism by a scary stranger called John Shooter (John Turturro), who is too much of a Stephen King character to be really interesting. In any case, of all the things Rainey could do to prove his innocence--including a Google search--the ones he picks are the most ludicrous. And he continues to make these sorts of choices even after his dog is killed, even after people are killed. It stretches credibility, and eventually it all has to be explained, in detail, and it still stretches credulity. Starring Johnny Depp, John Turturro, Maria Bello, Charles Dutton and Timothy Hutton. Directed and written by David Koepp. Produced by Gavin Polone. A Columbia release. Drama/Thriller. Rated PG-13 for violence/terror, sexual content and language. Running time: 95 min

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