This is one of those movies my movie masochist friend is obsessed with—the last one was FearDotCom. He just watches them and watches them and watches them, somehow reveling in the pain they inflict. I can’t tell you why. But those movies usually show up on my own list, and this one strains for an Omen-like creepy-child vibe, plus it’s got dubious science and Rebecca Romijn, so let’s go for it!
First dad, Greg Kinnear as Paul, gets mugged by one of his former students. This has nothing to do with anything, except to show the perils of the city, as Paul is mulling accepting a teaching position in the country. The city in question here is never identified, but it all looks suspiciously Canadian. It is his son Adam’s 8th birthday, and they have a party while delivering exposition. Before bed Rebecca as Jesse tells Paul they should move to the country to take Adam away from the big nasty city, saying “It’s about Adam… sometimes ethics have to take a backseat.” Wait—thematic subtext klaxon sounding!
In the next scene Adam is pulverized by a speeding car. The grieving parents are no sooner out of the church when Robert DeNiro as Richard Wells approaches them. After a lot of himmer-hawing, he finally spills that his institute could clone Adam, and that his parents could “have him back.” After some more grieving, the parents decide to go for it. They have been warned that what they’re going to do is “extremely against the law” and that they’ll have to move 300 miles away and sever all ties to friends and family. So they do, and Wells sets them up in a huge, gorgeous lakeside house, we get a short fertilization scene, a short birthing scene, and pop! Next thing you know, the new Adam is 8, the same age the first Adam was when he died. These people must be huffing antioxidants or some shit, because you’ll notice that no one ages in that eight years.
Well, let no time be lost before we start having creepiness! Adam starts to have a mysterious dream that causes him to go up in the huge attic, where his reflection in a window screams at him. He then goes catatonic. Paul screams to call 911, but Jesse instead calls Wells. By now we’ve noticed that the cinematography is pretty good, featuring lots of doubles and reflections, which is a rather superficial visual idea, but you know, at least it’s an idea.
Wells says that now that Adam has crossed the age at which he died, who knows what might happen. Scientifically, this is pure bunkum, as anyone who has read an article, like, ever, would know. But they run with it. Adam continues having weird dreams and acting generally creepy and scaring the other kids at school. He finally spits at a teacher. I’m sure you’re sensing the high stakes we’re trafficking in here.
Meanwhile, Wells is becoming a surrogate father to the boy, which makes Paul uncomfortable, and he starts questioning Wells’ wisdom and doing some investigative snooping. Meanwhile Wells is positioning himself to wedge the couple apart, making an intimate dinner for Jesse and asking her to “reign in Paul.” It continues in this vein, nothing really happening, until we come to the end.
SPOILERS > > >
By this time Adam has actually killed a kid. Then Paul has found out that the kid Adam seems to be possessed by, Zachary, was Wells’ son! And there's all this dookle-dooey about how he filled in missing chromosomes with his own kid's. He has a confrontation with Wells in a church, and Wells bashes his head with a huge candlestick and sets the church on fire! Meanwhile, out at the old creepy shed, Adam tries to kill his mama! But Paul shows up just in time [a little cranial trauma being just so much inconvenience]. Then—it’s six months later! The couple and their son have moved, and are starting anew! A slight touch of creepiness and then—the end! That is to say—NO ending. NOTHING is resolved. It just goes, and then it ends, leaving the story in pretty much the same place it was for the past hour.
But! What of the FOUR alternate endings, also on the disc? Each of them differs from the theatrical version in actually BEING an ending. In the first, it is Wells rather than Paul who shows up in the creepy shed. Paul is dead! He died in the church. Then there’s an epilogue that implies that Jesse is now romantically involved with Wells, which is an okay ending, as it looked like it was going that way anyway. Ending two is the same thing as the theatrical verison, with an added bit tacked on showing Wells approaching another couple. Ending three, which was the original ending, goes back to Jesse in the darkroom, where Adam turns on the gas and traps her down there in the dark. Wells shows up at the house and prepares an injection to kill Adam. He hears Jesse downstairs and goes to save her, and while he does, Adam injects HIM and he dies. Jesse escapes and goes to the creepy old shed, where Adam tries to kill her but is stopped by Paul. Then Paul tells Jesse to leave, and he strangles Adam! But they didn’t kill him—we later see them at Adam’s grave, with the idea that there are now no secrets [that was the whole problem—secrets!] and… whatever that means. The fourth ending is exactly the same, but no coda, i.e. they actually killed Adam.
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Eh. It wasn’t bad, per se, so much as it just had no idea and nowhere to go. The premise it’s built upon is so stupid that any interest in the cloning idea goes out early, and since Adam takes so long to actually do anything except be a brat, the whole thing—well acted and shot as it may be—starts to suffer under this overwhelming sense of purposelessness. This is only exacerbated by the theatrical ending, which doesn’t resolve anything. So you go and you watch and you wait and nothing happens, which makes one regard the whole movie before less well. And leaving one with the feeling that you’ve just totally wasted 100 minutes of your time—which you pretty much have.
No, there’s really no reason to.