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"THE X-FILES: I WANT TO BELIEVE"
(2008) (David Duchovny, Gillian Anderson) (PG-13)

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QUICK TAKE:
Drama: Two former FBI agents who specialized in investigating the paranormal are brought back together to help find a missing agent.
PLOT:
It's been years since Fox Mulder (DAVID DUCHOVNY) and Dana Scully (GILLIAN ANDERSON) worked for the FBI investigating paranormal incidents. Now, she's a surgeon employed by a Catholic run hospital where she tries to help sick kids such as Christian Fearon (MARCO NICCOLI) while dealing with the associated bureaucracy offered by Father Ybarra (ADAM GODLEY) who runs the place.

Mulder, on the other hand, has become something of a recluse and is bitter toward the way the FBI treated him, but he hasn't given up believing in the unbelievable. Which is good because FBI special agent Dakota Whitney (AMANDA PEET), along with her skeptical subordinate, Mosley Drummy (ALVIN "XZIBIT" JOINER), have recruited Scully to find Mulder.

And that's because one of their agents has gone missing, and an excommunicated, pedophile-convicted priest, Father Joseph Crissman (BILLY CONNOLLY), is having visions he believes will lead them to her. They don't, but a buried severed arm is discovered, and Dakota believes that Mulder is the only person who might be able to figure out the troubled priest and whether he truly has paranormal abilities or is just toying with the authorities.

Accordingly, he and Scully pair up again as partners, albeit reluctantly due to his anger toward the agency and her desire not to delve into the dark matters of the world once again. With Russians Janke Dacyshyn (CALLUM KEITH RENNIE) and Franz Tomczeszyn (FAGIN WOODCOCK) kidnapping various people, Mulder and Scully race against time to decipher Father Joseph's visions before it's too late for the missing FBI agent and the others who've been abducted.

OUR TAKE: 4 out of 10
When it debuted way back in 1993, "The X-Files" was the coolest and arguably the most interesting show on TV. Featuring then unknown actors David Duchovny as a quirky FBI agent working on cases seemingly involving the paranormal and Gillian Anderson as a skeptical agent initially assigned to debunk his work, the series was spooky, creepy, smart and touched upon all sorts of thematic issues from religion to paranoia and distrust of one's government.

It even spawned a big screen movie, 1998's "The X-Files: Fight the Future," which was unusual since it arrived midstream between the 5th and 6th seasons, and worked as both a continuation of the show's plotlines as well as a standalone pic.

Like many a series, however, the show eventually started to run out of both ideas and gas, with Duchovny showing up less and less in the last two seasons and viewership waning before things finally wrapped up in 2002 with its 202nd episode.

But just as was the case with the recently released "Sex and the City" movie, well enough has not been left alone as we now have the awkwardly titled "The X-Files: I Want to Believe." And it shares with its chick-flick predecessor from earlier this summer the following attributes: It takes up years after we last saw its characters, ends up feeling like an elongated episode from the show, and thus doesn't justify its existence on the big screen.

That is, except to make money. Although Carrie and her gal-pals surprised everyone with their film's huge opening and worldwide gross, it's hard to imagine this offering will follow suit, and that's not just due to the 1998 film coming up short of the $200 million mark at the worldwide box office (and thus reportedly losing money).

Instead, it's just because there just isn't much here to elicit much-needed buzz beyond the now questionably-sized fan base. While it's nice seeing the leads back in their familiar roles (their comfortableness in them and chemistry together clearly help the film), and diehard fans might be excited by the notion of series creator Chris Carter directing this flick (that he co-wrote with Frank Spotnitz), at best if comes off like a mediocre installment from the show's long run.

Unlike the first film, the visual scale of this one has been brought back down to TV size, which also holds true for the plot (which is another reason the big screen appearance feels unnecessary). Touching on subjects the series routinely examined (most notably the conflict between science and religion/spirituality), it also feels like a run-of-the-mill "FBI agents pursue serial killer" story with a little bit of Mary Shelley thrown in towards the end.

Unfortunately, that latter revelation is too little, too late (not to mention barely explained or developed) as the majority of the film lacks the creepiness and suspense that made the show's best episodes so enthralling. Most surprising, however, especially considering the day and age in which we now live, is the omission of the distrust of the U.S. government and its behavior at stymieing threats. There's no paranoia and conspiracy here beyond wondering why the script turned out so mundane.

The addition of Billy Connolly as an excommunicated, pedophile-convicted priest with troubling visions ends up feeling rather flat (even if that does provide the film's most interesting, albeit recycled questions about God, faith and belief) as does Scully's involvement with trying to find a cure for a sick boy (although her searching for answers via Google would make me nervous since, after all, she is a practicing surgeon). And both Amanda Peet as the lead FBI agent searching for one of her own and Alvin "Xzibit" Joiner as her constantly scowling subordinate are trapped in underwritten, rote roles straight out of any FBI meets serial killer flick.

While I stopped watching the series long before the end of its run (having lost interest), I wanted to believe in the cinematic gods that there was a good reason for resurrecting this show and its characters and bringing them back to the big screen a second time. Alas, this offering has only made me question my movie faith regarding why things like that happen. Not horrible but nothing more than an extended and fairly humdrum and recycled episode from the original show, "The X-Files: I Want to Believe" rates as just a 4 out of 10.




Reviewed July 23, 2008 / Posted July 25, 2008


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