The X-Files: I Want To Believe
David Duchovy, Gillian Anderson
1out of 5 stars
Reviewed for Coffeerooms by Mike Jefferson
It's official: the "X-Files" is now the ex-files.
I believe "I Want to Believe" the second X-Files movie, is the last you'll ever see of the once vaunted science fiction series. It's protracted, pedestrian, and worse, predictable - an unpardonable sin given the TV show's originality.
Unlike the first X-Files film, "I Want To Believe" doesn't focus on the series preoccupation with alien abductions, aliens amongst us, black oil, shadow government agencies or conspiracies. None of it. And there's no two timing by Alex Krycek, no comic diversions by the Lone Gunman, no dire threats by Cigarette Smoking Man, no sightings of the series sacred Shroud of Turin, Mulder's martyred sister, Samantha. "I Want To Believe" is a stand alone plot (although it staggers rather than stands). It's a throwback to the show's "monster of the week" approach, eschewing the more appealing and engrossing mythology the series spent seven years building up.
The thread-bare plot has Mulder and Scully pursuing the trail of what appears to be a serial killer. Actually he's a serial kidnapper, because he's snatched an FBI agent and a young woman whose sole function is to be as dispensable as a security guard on "Star Trek." All signs point to the ladies having been ripped into portable pieces like spare parts in a Bronx chop shop. But to quote Monty Python: "She's not dead yet!"
With the aid of defrocked pedophile priest Father Joseph (yeah, you really want this guy's help), agents Dakota Whitney (Amanda Peet, in need of a new agent) and Mosely Drummy (rapper Xhibit - exhibiting no talent whatsoever), track down dismembered body parts that may or may not belong to the missing women. Since discarded body parts in a frozen lake qualify as bizarre, agent Whitney comes up with the inspired idea of bringing in the semi-sedentary Fox Mulder (David Duchovy, taking a siesta throughout) to help Father Joseph interpret his visions. He's also drafted in case Father freaky is involved in the killings. (I guess the F.B.I. had a hard time believing a psychic priest can travel across five miles of frozen ice and go to the exact spot where a murder victim is stashed not once, but twice!)
Scully: What is it that you were praying for in there, sir?
Father Joe: For the salvation of my immortal soul.
Scully: And you think God hears your prayers?
Father Joe: You think he hears yours?
Scully: I didn't bugger thirty-seven altar boys.
Mulder: That's a pleasant way to put it.
Scully: I have another word I can use, if you'd like.
Mulder: I'm sure you do.
Are aliens conducting experiments on humans, chopping them up and discarding the empties? Naaaah. That would have required writer Chris Carter to strain a few brain cells and come up with an original plot. Instead he steals one of the most worn out stories in horror fiction - the story of Frankenstein's monster - grafting it to a few chase scenes resembling a sub zero Daytona 500.
Janke Dacyshyn, a Russian immigrant employed as an organ donor transporter, is quickly revealed as the no goodnick nicking women from lonely dirt roads and isolated homes. He brings them to his hideaway in the backwoods of Virginia so their parts can be harvested to save the life of his lover, Franz Tomczesyn, who just happens to be one of the many boys Father Joe molested. Dacyshyn is a perpetually violent Cossack crash dummy who enjoys using his pick up truck to induce blunt force trauma and doesn't bother covering up his tracks, which leads one to wonder why it would take a tactical force comprised of the local flatfoots, F.B.I, and a fallen Father to track him down - since there doesn't seem to be anything else going on in the small town on inbreeders.
The scenes at Dacyshyn's hideout are straight out of a Mel Brooks horror movie parody. The only thing missing is a cross-eyed assistant with a hump or Tomczesyn breaking into a chorus of "Puttin' On the Ritz," or in his case, "Sittin' On A Ritz." One of the film's unintentionally laughable moments occurs when the surgeon begins sawing off Tomczesyn's head. We never learn for what purpose, but it appears he planned to put it on the abducted girl's body. This certainly wasn't what baseball great Ted Williams had in mind when he had his head cryogenically frozen. With a woman's body and scarred up bald man's head, Tomczesyn would be the scariest transgender since Rosie O'Donnell. Guess that's what you get when you hire Mickey Rourke's plastic surgeon.
The action all comes down to whether Mulder can stop comrade Frankenstein, and whether nice Catholic girl Scully can come to grips with receiving help and guidance from a defrocked priest.
You can see every twist and turn coming, especially when Father Joe says to Scully "Don't give up" (an obvious reference to the sick child that everyone but Scully and Mulder seem to get). The most disingenuous moment occurs near the end, when Scully calls in another prominent character from the series to ride in on his white bronco (actually in his white Bronco truck) to save the day.
What really makes "I Want To Believe" so unbelievably bad is it's limp-wristed plot. It's no more than a bad boogeyman story, a modern day Frankenstein with a homosexual twist.
David Duchovny drones through his role as Fox Mulder, smirking and wise-cracking as if he's preparing for his next gig as an oversexed writer in "Californication." Get your head in the game, Dave.
If Duchovny is sleepwalking, then Billy Connolly is perpetuating a walking coma. Pulling off his self-flagellating pedophile priest character would have been hard enough with an excellent script, but Connelly's does little more than twitch upon command and mumble in a brogue like a Johnny Walker doused Barry Fitzgerald.
Gillian Anderson is one of the few actors that embraced her character. She's able to rise above the worthless subplot involving Scully's moral battle to save the life of a terminally ill kid. (The only thing missing is a young, dew-eyed Ricky Schroeder and a maudlin soundtrack orchestrated by Ray Conniff) She also navigates the Scully/Mulder lovechild issue with dignity, as opposed to Duchovny, who inexplicably smiles like a mischievous teenager let loose at a girl's school whenever he and Scully share a private moment. Scully's the movie's stabilizing force. Anderson knows it, and her eyes burn with purpose. She's focused and says her lines with genuine emotion. And unlike Duchovny, who looks tired and bored, Gillian's been taking care of Gillian. She's less emotionally constipated than was in the TV series, and thanks to her years of acting in Indie productions, seems to have picked up on the subtleties that separate good actors from hacks picking up a paycheck.
Pity Amanda Peet. The perky actress showed a lot of comic moxie in "The Whole Nine Yards" as Bruce Willis' gun moll-in-training girlfriend and had a three-year run on the sleeper series "Jack and Jill." But it seems every time she tries to stretch out in a drama she's get trod on like peat moss. She's efficient and determined as agent Dakota Whitney, but is needlessly sacrificed early in the picture to play upon the audience's sympathies. The problem is, Whitney's got her wits about her in the other scenes, so not only is her fate a gyp, she's one of the few characters worth watching and caring about. After she exits, you should too.
If you believe as I do that rap artists are not only bad singers, they're bad actors, than look no further than Xzibit, who play's Whitney's partner, Agent Mosely Drummy. He's mostly dummy, the type of horrifically heinous actor tomatoes were invented for. As the film's "disbeliver" he's called upon to condemn and criticize Mulder at every turn:
Agent Drummy: I don't believe this.
Mulder: You know, that's been your problem from the very beginning.
And you won't believe Xzibit's ineptitude either. Xzibit's Drummy exhibits a harsh, unyielding attitude that never changes. We don't get to see him get his comeuppance through enlightenment because there's no reason to accomadate him after Amanda Peet gets shafted. Drummy's just there to bully Mulder and crease his brow while doing it. Oh yes, Xzibit also provides "Dying To Live,' painful proof that rap = crap.
The "villains" are virtually silent, so the one-note motive of one lover trying to save the other by piecing together a new body for him is never fleshed out (no pun intended). Canadian actor Callum Keith Rennie (now in "Californication" with Duchovy, can you say "payback?") plays Janke Dacyshyn, the Russian nut job donor delivery boy. With little dialogue to work with, he's forced to froth like Rasputin and display typical sci-fi moments of angry inhuman strength. Rennie is intense, but he's bogged down by his poorly written boogeyman role. The same can be said for Fagin Woodcock (you're kiddin' me with that name, right?) who plays Franz Tomczesyn, the film's Frankenstein's monster and Janke's love interest. He has to react to getting slashed in the opening scene and spends the rest of the film gurgling through tubes and air bags while on his back in an operating room. His acting is equally comatose.
If Chris Carter set out to pick up where the television series left off he succeeded. By its seventh and last season, "The X-Files" was a spent force. Duchovny wasn't even a regular on the show anymore. He should have remained an ex-cast member.
Extras include Carter doing what amounts to an infomercial about the film's "green production." The actors and crew used hybrid cars, and many of the sets were cannibalized from other films. It's a noble cause and a nice sentiment, by hardly scintillating, but it's still more interesting than Xzibit's ridiculous rap. You'll have to content yourself with "Body Parts,' a segment on the film's special effects, and the gag reel, which shows that Peet and Anderson are good natured good sports who don't mind falling on the ice or mugging for the camera if it helps keep the crew loose.
With "I Want To Believe" the X-Files has finally jumped the shark. Its degenerated into a grade Z laugher that makes "Plan Nine From Outer Space" look like "The Godfather." Maybe if we could cryogenically freeze Chris Carter's noggin and go back in time to the moment he thought of creating this Frankenstein facsimile we could stop thousands of X-Files fans from crying out for his head. Probably not.