There’s nothing supernatural about this thriller. Of course, there really isn’t anything original about it, either, unless you’re talking about rising child-star Dakota Fanning.
David Callaway (Robert De Niro) is a New York shrink who wakes one evening to discover his wife (Amy Irving) dead in the bath tub and in full view of his young daughter, Emily (Dakota Fanning). Against the advice of a fellow shrink (Famke Janssen), David moves to upper New York state so that he and his daughter can take some time to adjust. Faster than you can say ‘creepy girl,’ Emily turns spooky and David turns inward, and everyone inside their lives or just outside the house should fear for their lives until the credits roll.
Advertised as a supernatural thriller, Hide and Seek boasts an above-average cast that takes an unoriginal idea (for thrillers, anyway) and drags it too long through events too uninteresting. Instead of spending the film building to a revelation, the film bails out halfway through then spends the second half trying to make it look like a clever idea. For reasons I cannot spoil here, opportunities were missed by people better than this film deserved. What’s left is just about average if, again, it were not for the cast.
Dakota Fanning as De Niro’s disturbed little girl is a potent combination of Goth icon Emily and film icon Wednesday Addams; from the moment she turns creepy, Linda Blair wouldn’t have played with her. Taking a cue from Brittany Murphy in Don’t Say a Word, Fanning manages to be disturbed, vulnerable, and dangerous all at the same time, and that’s something for her age (besides, she DID star opposite Murphy in Uptown Girls). She also looks like De Niro’s character must have waited till he was in his forties to have kids (Amy Irving’s age will confirm this), so De Niro looks in no way fast enough to keep up her. Clever lines and their perfect delivery lets Fanning sell every moment she has on screen.
Now this is really the hardest part of this review. Robert De Niro is a fine actor, but the part he brings to this could have much more. Whether these abilities were intentionally played down as a creative choice or somebody dropped the ball, when the twist occurs, only Fanning seems to pick up the ball and run with it. The rest of the film slides downhill after that, which makes the fact that a little girl must endure all this almost a cheap ploy. So, if you want to see the next big thing in thrillers, little Dakota Fanning may be it, but the rest is pure straight-to-DVD.
(a two skull recommendation out of four)