Bless the Child

Even Satan's power cannot affect the Basinger hair
★
☆☆☆☆
Released: 
2000
Director: 
Chuck Russell
Starring: 
Kim Basinger, Jimmy Smits, Rufus Sewell, Angela Bettis
The Setup: 
Woman tries to save her angel-child from satanists.
Discussion: 

This always looked horribly cheesy to me, meaning it seemed pretty appealing, but never enough to get me to rent it. Then there it was on Netflix streaming, requiring me to do little more than click a mouse, an amount of effort appropriate to seeing this malarkey. I have a special fondness for the perfect-hair self-seriousness of Kim Basinger, who I have long regarded as a bit of a joke, Oscar or no. This came out right after she won her Academy Award, and thus became next in the long tradition of really sad post-Oscar choices. It was also made to capitalize on the change of millennium, and the danger some apparently felt that this might herald the spiritual apocalypse. Then there were too many apocalyptic devil movies crowding the marketplace, and plus this one sucked, so it was held until a few months into 2000. So how bad is it?

Under the credits we have close-ups of a devilish gargoyle, which clearly tells us "no fresh ideas here!" We also learn, to my surprise and delight, that we are to enjoy performances by Angela Bettis and Christina Ricci! For a dynamic opener, we have Kim as Maggie (let's just call her Kim) on a BUS! She is approached by an African-American woman who tells her that there's a star in the sky that hasn't been seen since Bethlehem, and it means awesome news for believers in God's glorious plan. Kim smiles pleasantly and says "That's nice," which is something she actually does a lot on her movies, if you start to notice. She just wants to be the prettiest, nicest, blandest Hamptons mom ever. She says she's not sure what she believes, which any third-grader would know is setting us up for her conversion over the course of the movie to come. By the way, we'll soon have further evidence that this movie is one of those in which black people are nearer to God than thee, which of course is its own form of patronizing racism.

So Kim arrives home at the bus stop directly in front of her door and goes in to find some homeless skank lurking in her lobby. Kim says "Get away, filthy gutter girl! And get a fucking job while you're at it!" Actually no, she's the super nice Hamptons mom, right? (although we're supposed to believe that she's a struggling nurse), so she smiles wanly says "I don't have any change," but it's soon revealed that the gutter girl is--her long-lost sister, Jenna! And is played by Angela Bettis (no waiting for Bettis!), and best of all, she's playing a heroin addict! So they go up to Kim's CAVERNOUS Manhattan apartment that she affords on her nurse's salary, where she meets Jenna's baby Cody (they're always named Cody), and finds that Jenna carried the baby while doing drugs, and also has no idea who the father is, because it could be any of a bunch of guys. Kim is appalled--APPALLED!--and tells Jenna she's got to kick the drugs right now (OK sure, no problem! I'll just drop my chronic addiction and then we'll go for mochas!) and raise that baby right, at which point Jenna says "Christ, this lady sure is a prig. No wonder I haven't seen her in years!" and high-tails it, leaving her baby behind. Merry Christmas, Kim! Here's a BABY.

Kim quickly wraps the baby in newspaper and drops it down the garbage chute before anyone gets up in the morning. No, silly! Bland smiling Hamptons moms do not DO that. They just ADORE KIDS. So Kim adopts the defective brat and suddenly it's six years later, when the child is receiving a diagnosis of autism. She's just spaced out, and seems like she's listening to something that isn't there. This film is making the bold, facile statement that perhaps autistic kids simply have a psychic hotline to Jesus. Then mom has a date over to cuddle and watch old Groucho Marx shows, but little Cody starts banging her head on the wall and the guy high-tails it, telling us that evil, selfish, irresponsible men flee from single moms, but frankly I think the problem started back at that Groucho Marx rerun, when the guy realized that for Kim, sex is a set of hand-stitched throw pillows, some lightly sweetened iced tea and a snuggly cable-knit sweater.

Kim is no sooner reading a newspaper on the bus (she reads the Daily News and we're supposed to respect this woman?) with a headline about a series of child murders, when we join some rather handsome bald man and he nods to his red-headed young assistant on the street. Hopes are momentarily raised when you have a moment of "Is that Seth Green?" but no, it's just some nobody. To demonstrate that they are indeed the killers, they abduct some street child, who is soon after found drowned, introducing Jimmy Smits as detective John Travis, who specializes in ritual crimes. We also see Rufus Sewell as Eric Stark, who has become a kind of self-help guru that helps runaway kids. We know immediately that Stark is the Devil's emissary because he has dark hair and striking eyes.

Meanwhile Cody is bringing dead doves back to life, which is treated as, you know, just another thing she does, but this is witnessed by the bald thug, who reports that they've found the kid they're looking for. That night we SUDDENLY join Kim at her nursing job (we had no clue what she did til now), where Christina Ricci appears as a strung-out girl who knows Jenna, and tells Kim that they want her child, for purposes oh so nefarious. But when Kim comes back to learn more--she's GONE!

In here Kim has a little dream in which she goes into Cody's room and it's filled with CGI rats. All of the spooky CGI shit in this movie happens in such disconnected little bursts that have no impact whatsoever on the story, to the point where I began to suspect they were added later, once they edited this together and realized that NOTHING happens in this film. The rats suddenly vanish and, poof, that's it, then!

Then who should show up at Kim's house but Eric Stark! And his new bride, Jenna, who is all
cleaned up and upper class now. And they're like "Everything is fine now, so thanks so much, but fork over the kid." They bring in the requisite creepy nanny, on loan from Rebecca, and they abduct the kid! Distraught Kim goes to the police, where she HAPPENS to run into Agent Travis after 30 seconds, and they have their disagreements so they can get over them later. Kim does a little investigating of the Stark Institute, but is unable to reach anyone.

SPOILERS (NOT REALLY) > > >
Suddenly Ricci calls Kim and they agree to meet at a diner. Ricci spills the beans that Cody is not a devil child, as you might have guessed, but actually an ANGEL child, who is going to lead the world to a new dawn of love and high thread-count bedding, and Stark wants to turn her to Satan because if he can turn her... it will... mean something? I guess? Then the demon disciples, who are an easily-identifiable crew of goths and addict-types, come after Ricci, and she escapes into the subway. This is the first of a few incidents in this film in which a character bases their escape strategy on New York City's public transportation system, which, as a New Yorker, I feel it is my duty to inform you is NEVER A WISE MOVE in reality. I'd hate to have one of my readers trying to duck international drug runners by hopping on a bus, and then sitting there for five minutes as the bus remains stuck in traffic, then misses the light, then has to stop again at the bus shelter just past the intersection, fifty feet away. Just trust me.

Anyway, they go down into the Delancy street station, which is actually an unused station in Toronto that often doubles as an NYC station. As Kim sees Ricci getting attacked, there are CGI demons flying about, one of those instances where you suspect they were added later to juice the dull proceedings up, since they do not interact with anything or affect anything in any way. Kim falls onto the tracks, and an interesting tidbit of trivia from the IMDb tells us that Toronto would not let them film in their station if Kim was PUSHED onto the tracks, as was the original intent. She survives the obligatory oncoming train, and sees Ricci chillin' a few feet away. Ooops, only her head isn't attached anymore.

So now Kim is visited in the hospital by Travis, where she is rocking this bandage headband that is unadvisable, and he gives her a gun. She also has Stark's address, scrawled by Ricci before the unfortunate head-loss incident. We now have more African-Americans from Jesus as Travis is in his office, all frazzled, and finally appeals to the big man in the sky for help. Who should magically appear but a black janitor, who tells him that a good man is never alone in this world, then vanishes again. You know, poor blacks are SO spiritual! They've got a hotline to God. That would vanish if they were to move into an upper income bracket.

Then Kim doffs her headband and escapes from the hospital, and drives right over to Stark's, who resides in this nasty abandoned school where he has constructed a chic apartment inside. Kim sneaks in (Stark is the controversial public figure guru who has no security) and tries to snatch Cody, but then Stark appears, as does Jenna, and it finally comes down to Kim pulling the gun--only it's not loaded. Then Kim is drugged and--wakes up behind the wheel of a speeding vehicle! Let's not ask how. She's on a bridge, and is soon teetering over the edge. You might be interested to know that the bridge she's on is actually in New Haven, and the Manhattan backgrounds were pasted in later, which is totally obvious if you know. Kim is helped out by a white guy with long hair and beard, looking like he's riding his bike on the way to his shift at the vegan co-op. We find out later that no one else saw this guy, meaning that he was an ANGEL, which causes us to reflect that white people CAN also be angels in this movie, so long as they're unwashed granola-scarfin' hippies.

Well you might be wondering if the devil-worshippers are going to enact some plan here, or what? Turns out they have to turn Cody to Satan by Easter Eve, or, you know, the jig is up, or something. So Stark takes her to this abandoned place where an old bum is talking to himself, douses him with gasoline, and encourages him to light a match. He does, but Cody goes up to him and blows the match out, and hugs the guy (Girl! He is covered with stinky gas!). Now, if you've even taken a class or mowed the lawn for your dad or whatever, you know that it is not the actual liquid of gasoline that is highly flammable, but the FUMES, so the second this guy sparked the match he would be gone, but... that's the magic of the movies!

After some more bullshit and the presence of poor Ian Holm, we're back to Stark trying to turn Cody. He takes her up to the roof of his building, where we have some interesting Manhattan geography. You see, behind him is looking SOUTH, toward the world trade center, and in front of him is looking EAST, toward the Empire State Building. Surely only Satan himself can perform such odd changes in geography! Anyway, he tries to get her to jump, if she's some angel child or whatever, but she refuses, and that's pretty much it. Not a lot of excitement here, folks.

Anyway, Stark and Jenna are the odd Satanists who are concerned about dental care, and take little Cody to the dentist, where Kim springs her and abducts her again. Another escape via public transportation, with more angels assisting Kim's escape. Next thing you know they're in a car (Kim stopped her escape long enough to rent a car, I guess?) and they're speeding toward Vermont. There follows a fairly low-speed car chase, and the kid is re-abducted. Kim calls Travis and screams "They've got Cody!" and he reacts without surprise, although he did not know that Kim re-abducted her, and for all he knew, they HAD Cody.

Now if you have followed Kim Basinger's movie roles, you must realize that there are no forces, natural or supernatural, from God or Satan, that can cause her hair to look anything short of amazing. She is picked up by Travis, and gets lightly misted by rain, which causes her to have a sudden perm. Just as suddenly, it is the dreaded Easter Eve, which means its all going down tonight. Kim sees a young person in a white dress and knows it's Cody, although she didn't know the girl had been put in that dress. Anyway, she ends up at a church where we have more CGI demons and a CGI devil that doesn't interact with anything and looks rather added in post, and then it's time for the big showdown.

Kim has grabbed a steak knife off the table and stabs Stark, just as he's trying to get Cody to convert to Satan just to save mommy. She escapes and trots at a quite leisurely pace to Cody--can we at least PRETEND at some urgency here?--where she gets shot. The obligatory fire starts. It's looking like curtains for Kim when Cody hops down and performs a little godlike resurrection, with the assistance of three glowing orbs or white light, which have shown up suddenly and leave just as quick. Stark is shot, and Kim rescues Cody and the hapless Jenna, who was just a strung-out girl fallen prey to a predator, and they escape from the burning church.

Then, in a final scene that may as well be subtitled "Sorry, we realize nothing really happens in this movie," Cody and Kim are out walking, in happy days after their ordeal, when the Seth Green clone runs at Cody with a knife, then hears church bells, and stops and retreats. Yay, BIG finish! That's it folks, thanks so much for coming.
< < < SPOILERS END

Well, it sucked pretty bad. Lame from start to finish, leaving the only reason to watch it to make fun of how generally senseless it all is. One big problem is that Satan's plan is pretty muddled, leaving it hard to really feel any sense of urgency to any of this. Because of that, nothing that does happen seems like much of a big deal, giving the sense that nothing is really happening in the whole movie--sadly only underscored by the inserted CGI that doesn't interact with anything. And the kid is abducted and re-abducted so many time it just becomes a bit funny. Then there's the high-drama concerned faces of Kim Basinger, and the whole thing becomes just inconsequential and gently amusing, if you like to snicker at such things.

So yeah, no good reason to watch this, certainly not if you're expecting anything like a good movie, but amusing enough if you find Kim a bit inherently ludicrous and/or love the hyped-up seriousness of Satanic thrillers. Plus, you do get some good Angela Bettis, who effortlessly acts everyone else off the screen during her few scenes. Nevertheless, she--and you--deserve a better movie.

Should you watch it: 

All you've got to lose is time and brain cells.