Eugene Weekly : Movies : 7.31.08


Case Closed
This X-File isn’t worth investigating
by Molly Templeton

THE X-FILES: I WANT TO BELIEVE: Directed by Chris Carter. Written by Carter and Frank Spotnitz. Cinematography, Bill Roe. Music, Mark Snow. Starring David Duchovny, Gillian Anderson, Billy Connolly, Amanda Peet and Xzibit. Twentieth Century Fox, 2008. PG13. 100 min.

Mulder (David Duchovny) finds the truth isn’t in there in The X-Files: I Want to Believe

Like anyone who spent a chunk of the ’90s engrossed in the exploits of FBI agents Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) and Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson), caught up in their paranormal investigations and (mostly) unexplored sexual tension, I wanted to believe in the second X-movie. I wanted to believe that revisiting these characters six years after the series stumbled to an end, 10 years after 1998’s The X-Files: Fight the Future debuted in theaters, would somehow prove as intriguing as it was long ago. And I wanted to believe that a movie that had nothing to do with the series’ central mythology — clones, black oil, submarines, Alex Krycek, the Cigarette Smoking Man, Mulder’s sister, complex conspiracies that rival those on Lost — could still be relevant.

I didn’t believe. In fact, I came away from The X-Files: I Want to Believe mostly convinced I may never watch the series the same way again. I cannot in good conscience recommend much of anything about this film — with two exceptions. One, it’s Scully’s movie, for the most part, which — much as I adore world-weary, stubborn Mulder — is an interesting surprise. Always the skeptic (though faith-wise she’s the believer) to Mulder’s the-truth-is-out-there believer, Scully spends I Want to Believe wrestling with things to believe in: Mulder, psychic abilities, faith in herself, faith in a higher power, faith in science, etc. And two, there’s a brief scene in which Duchovny is shirtless. (When a film is this terrible, I’m not above stooping to find things to enjoy.)

But it would take far more than a believably emotional Scully and a wry-as-always Mulder to make palatable this tired, absurd plot, which has all the creativity of a second-rate television detective spin-off. Simultaneously, Mulder’s presence is requested on the case of a missing agent to whom Father Joe (Billy Connolly) claims to have a connection, and Scully wrestles with her employer and herself about the proper treatment for a child with a rare disease. But within these two threads, director (and series creator) Chris Carter and his cowriter Frank Spotnitz pack in not only the aforementioned pedophile priest but one of his victims; stem cell therapy; a credibility-stretching coincidence involving Google; organ thieves; kidnapping (of women only, it’s worth noting); a snide visual joke about George W. Bush that made even this hard-headed liberal roll her eyes; Mulder going after a room of baddies armed with a wrench; and, most troublingly, villains whom Carter seems to have imported from a considerably less enlightened decade.

These elements are wrapped together in a package of disappointing mediocrity, complete with overwrought score, pedestrian imagery and a screenplay that leans on dialogue so clunky and expository it barely gives you time to enjoy the odd spark still lingering between Duchovny and Anderson. I Want to Believe might have been a fair hour of television — when the series was still on the air. But after six years, the bland, flawed monster-of-the-week story this film offers is a major letdown. 

The X-Files: I Want to Believe is now playing at Cinemark and VRC Stadium 15.




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