Godsend

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Starring Greg Kinnear, Rebecca Romijn-Stamos, and Robert De Niro. Rated PG.

Some bad horror flicks take a while to reveal their ineptitude, but not so Godsend; it's identified as a chunk o' junk during the opening credits! That's when sucky high-school biology teacher Paul Duncan (Greg Kinnear), rushing home for his son's eighth birthday, takes a shortcut through a big-city alley and gets accosted at knifepoint by two muggers. During the crime, Duncan recognizes one of them as a former student, and the would-be robber apologizes and lets him go, telling his disbelieving cohort: "He was the best teacher I ever had!" This gives the intended victim the opportunity, when he arrives at the party late, to explain to his wife, Jessie (Rebecca Romijn-Stamos): "I ran into an old student; I got held up." Ha-ha. And I thought this was supposed to be a gripping psycho-thriller about a devastated couple who would do anything to bring their dead child back to life.

Shortly after his birthday, the boy in question, Adam (Nanaimo native Cameron Bright), dies in his doting mother's arms after being hit by an airborn car í  la Robin Williams in What Dreams May Come. After the funeral, as the grieving parents shuffle down the snowy steps of a grand church, they're approached by Richard Wells (Robert De Niro), a brilliant geneticist who offers to clone Adam. "You can have him back!" he promises, adding that, due to the rapid deterioration of the boy's body, the Duncans only have 72 hours in which to make the Faustian pact. Of course, the desperate duo go for it. Hey, it beats dumping the kid in the Pet Sematary!

When Dr. Wells gets the okay for the cloning, he sets the couple up in a huge mansion in the small town where his Godsend Fertility Clinic is located; he even finds Paul another teaching job. After a tense delivery, the new Adam appears to be doing just fine. Skip ahead eight years and he looks just like the first Adam--but with a scarier haircut. (His parents look exactly the same too, which undoubtedly saved a lot of money for Godsend's makeup department.)

As expected, bad things start happening right after Adam II's eighth birthday bash. They begin with him refusing to see his party guests out, escalate with him spitting on people at school, and (nearly) end with him aiming a hatchet at the back of his mom's head. In between, the boy has a bunch of freaky visions, most of them involving an evil child named Zachary, but nothing scary or the least bit engrossing occurs. The weirdest thing is watching perennial wuss Kinnear push tough guy De Niro all over the place. I kept waiting for Bob to pull an Angel Heart--sprout sharp fingernails, put in some demonic contact lenses--and tear Mr. Schoolteacher a new A-hole.