BLESS THE CHILD
When drug-addled Jenna (Angela Bettis) dumps her newborn baby Cody (Holliston Coleman) on
her more responsible big sis Maggie (Kim Basinger), little do they know the babe has
special angelic powers. Maggie thinks it’s more than the autism – it’s like
Cody is "listening to something we can't see or hear." Six years on, Jenna
suddenly re-enters their lives with her new husband, Eric Stark (Rufus Sewell), the
infamous guru and brainchild of the self-help organization ‘New Dawn.’ He has
sinister plans for young Cody, and when a spiritual FBI agent (Jimmy Smits) links him to a
string of child murders, it uncovers a devilish affair.
"Along with the considerably talented (and bankable) actors Basinger (who looks
great – but we know that), Smits, and Sewell, this derivative Satanic nonsense (think
Rosemary’s Baby meets Touched by an Angel) boasts small, exploitative minor roles.
There’s Christina Ricci in all her latex-bustier glory, and Ian Holm playing yet
another outcast priest. Maybe all these stars were under the influence of a higher (or
lower?) power when they signed on for Bless the Child. It’s the only reasonable
explanation for their participation in this very D-grade unscary movie. Each of their
roles is a laughable caricature; Basinger the latent Mom, Bettis the drug-addicted minion,
Sewell the serpent’s earthly servant, and Smits the crusading Fox Mulder-ish cop.
Only little Coleman shines – by default – as the chosen child. Chosen for what,
you ask? Good question! The filmmakers never make it known what her gift is, apart from a
few telekinetic tricks and feeling sick people’s pain. We never know what God’s
grand plan is for her, and that’s just one of the missing links. The other is that
this is supposed to be a chilling occult thriller. Puh! It barely registers a single scare
- only the girl’s slightly monstrous nanny makes your skin crawl. As Satan's
right-hand man, Sewell is so bland and unscary he brings shame on all the actors
who’ve had so much devilish fun playing the Dark One, from Pacino in The Devil’s
Advocate, to DeNiro in Angel Heart, to Gabriel Byrne in End of Days. And while the
direction from The Mask’s Chuck Russell is limp and uninspired, the worst aspect of
this demonic disaster is the textbook dialogue, like "Where's our [police] backup?
They were right behind us," and "Tell everyone to meet me in the chapel. These
people are under attack, sister. They need our prayers." They might as well say a
prayer for Bless the Child, as it vanishes to video hell. "And like that
(‘click’), he’s gone…"
Shannon J. Harvey
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BLESS THE CHILD (MA)
CAST: Kim Basinger, Jimmy Smits, Holliston Coleman, Rufus Sewell, Angela Bettis,
DIRECTOR: Chuck Russell
PRODUCER: Mace Neufeld
SCRIPT: Thomas Rickman, Ellen Green, Clifford Green, (novel by Cathy Cash Spellman)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Peter Menzies Jr.
EDITOR: Alan Heim
MUSIC: Christopher Young
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Carol Spier
RUNNING TIME: 107 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Buena Vista International
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: October 12, 2000