Bless the Child

Apparently, the only thing Kim Basinger wants the world to know is that a mother's love can overcome all. She has an odd way of doing this; she makes bad movies. I Dreamed of Africa marked the follow-up to her Oscar winning performance in L.A. Confidential. She played a mother left to her own devices with her children. She fended for herself, learning the ways of the world and protecting her children. She found empowerment along the way. She was an independent woman! Bless the Child combines her sappy maternal love story with another recently maligned genre, the millennial thriller. End of Days, The Omega Code, Stigmata and the oft-delayed Lost Souls all play upon fears of the millennium to mixed results, usually bad. Watching the same bad movie over and over is not fun, and watching a combination of bad movies is even worse.

Maggie O'Connor (Basinger) is raising her niece Cody (Holliston Coleman). Cody is special. O'Connor and her doctors believe it is autism, but it is actually something different. Cody performs near-magical feats when no one is looking. Eric Stark (Rufus Sewell, Illuminata, The Very Thought of You) leads a cult masquerading as a self-help movement. Stark is a charismatic leader, who also happens to be a Satanist. Of course. He believes that certain children have special powers that will enable him to unleash some great evil. He kidnaps these children and tests them to see if they are the ones, and in all cases, they were not. He now believes that Cody is the one. FBI Agent John Travis (Jimmy Smits, Million Dollar Hotel, Price of Glory) is hot on Stark's trail, but he needs concrete proof before moving in. When Stark kidnaps Cody, Travis believes that he can get the proof he needs.

The main problem is that O'Connor is also doing everything she can to find Cody herself. She continually disobeys Travis' orders to stay out of the action, and writers Cliff Green, Ellen Green, Chuck Russell, and Don Roos ensure that her idiotic escapades prove fruitful. It's understandable that she feels lots of love towards Cody, but her actions are inane. The script never gives any plausible reason as to why O'Connor is able to do what she does. She stumbles upon things mysteriously, and the story moves forward. The worst part is that everything is so sappy. Basinger frets and cries at most opportunities, making everybody forget why she won an Oscar in the first place. It is hard watching good actors in bad roles. Ian Holm (Joe Gould's Secret) and Christina Ricci (Sleepy Hollow) have thankfully small roles that don't amount to much. Smits apparently made a huge leap in acting from a cop in NYPD Blue to an FBI agent. He's good, but there isn't much to work with. The same goes for Sewell, whose character never manages to look menacing.

Russell (Eraser, The Mask) does a good job of matching the sets of End of Days and Stigmata, but nothing new appears here. The same dilapidated churches appear. Oranges, browns, and blacks permeate the color schemes. But there is little tension in the movie. It is a forgone conclusion that O'Connor's love will win in the end, and she will single-handedly avert the end of the world, or whatever is going to happen. Watching her get to that point is almost painful. Out of all the millennial thrillers, Bless the Child probably contains the most references to religion. This is a double-edged sword. The heavy focus on Christianity will probably turn off many people. Others will cringe at the generalities taken with Biblical principles and stories. Overall, Bless the Child is I Dreamed of Africa all over again, and that is not a good thing.

Haro Rates It: Pretty Bad.
1 hour, 47 minutes, Rated PG-13 for violence, drug content, and brief language.

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