Hide and Seek (2005)
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Review Date: February 02, 2005
Director: John Polson
Writer: Ari Schlossberg
Producers: Barry Josephson
Robert DeNiro as David
Dakota Fanning as Emily
Famke Janssen as Katherine
A widowed father moves his daughter from the big city and into a small town of about 2,000 people, in order to help her re-adjust to life after the death of her mom. His plan doesn’t work out so well though, as his creepy-looking daughter soon befriends an imaginary friend named “Charlie” who doesn’t much care for the father and actually likes to piss him off. Lots of hiding and seeking ensue.
I love a good mystery as much as the next guy, but if you’re gonna string me along by the nose for an hour and a half, you better make sure that once you give me the goods, it all adds up to something that makes sense, and doesn’t “cheat” me out of my investment in the characters and the movie to that point. HIDE AND SEEK has a decent set-up, an atmospheric and creepy build-up and two actors engaging enough to want to watch for an hour and a half, but at the end of the day, the film is all about the mystery behind the child’s odd behavior and if the entire movie builds itself around that bizarre conduct, I want to be given a satisfactory solution to my own queries along the way, not some half-assed ending that gives you an interesting solution, but not one that satisfies on most levels. I don’t normally like to concentrate on one part of a movie so much, but in the case of this film, the studio itself also promoted it with the idea that the “ending” had to be kept top-secret and delivered by security guards to the theaters, etc… The film is also pretty redundant and slow-moving after a while, with the basic premise being established, followed by a ton of odd behavior and actions by the little girl. Of course, the dad in this case, the great Robert DeNiro downplaying his role here, seems to be either the most sensitive father in the world, a man who simply doesn’t want to upset his daughter any more than she already is, or the dumbest dad/psychiatrist in the world, as a zillion signs that his daughter is obviously deeply disturbed, don’t seem to stir in him, any need for immediate reaction or external help.

Also, if you’re doing to move to a small town in order to help your daughter forget about her mom’s death, how about jazzing shit up a little, man? Turn some lights on around the house, stop spending so much time by yourself in a room with speakers glued to your eardrums, and for the love of Travis Bickle, hug and kiss your girl every now and again. This guy must’ve been either the boringest dad in the world, or very simply…the boringest man…period! How Elisabeth Shue’s character saw anything in him is beyond me! All that said, I was never entirely bored while watching this film, mostly due to the uber-creepy performance put forth by the always-impressive Dakota Fanning, who continues to amaze with an eerie showing, beyond her years (love the black hair too). Just looking at her creeped me out. What a weirdo. Unfortunately for the audience, not much else happens in the movie, other than the continued interaction between father and daughter, and even though a few flashbacks and the addition of Famke Janssen and the aforementioned Shue spice things up a little, at the end of the day, you’re basically just trying to figure out why this little girl is so messed up, and once discovered, it’s really not all that fulfilling. In fact, I just wanted the film to end soon thereafter, but it just kept going and going and going after that. A character in the film also utters its title at about the most inappropriate time possible, adding giggles to a scenario that should have been leading to frights. One thing I will give up to the filmmakers, particularly John Ottman, is an excellent score that also helped ease me into the film’s overall sense of the skewed. That said, you really gotta deliver when you build things up through such an elongated set-up, and in the case of this film, it just didn’t come through in the end. Still might be a decent popcorn muncher on a bored, winter night though.
(c) 2018 Berge Garabedian

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