Monday, September 27, 2004

To continue my run of reviews of bad movies, I find it my sad duty to report that the Forgotten is a dire temptation and inspiration of inappropriate critical humor. You know you've got a problem when your deadly-serious dead child/abduction thriller elicits a universal and spontaneous giggle from a matinee crowd of greying adults mid-way through. The story, of a grieving mother who just won't let the memory of her dead child go, is strongly evocative of the plight of the 9/11 widows in the initial twenty or thirty minutes, and the steady tastefulness of that initial twenty or thirty minutes was encouraging. Then the NSA showed up, and seriousness went on holiday. Oh, there was no humor - no intentional humor, at least - but the writing went south along with seriousness, no doubt for a romantic tryst on the beaches around Kitty Hawk.

Our unhinged protagonist develops the belief that aliens have abducted her lost son, and not only bewitches a fellow-grieving dimbulb parent into sharing that belief, but by some miracle of fourth-wall influence, convinces the committee of scriptwriters as well. Not long afterwards, the special-effects crew, who have been unobtrusive and restrained up to that moment, introduce God's Bungee Cord, with which the mostly-unseen aliens eject any character who threatens to interfere with the plot - er, "experiment". When I call it "God's Bungee Cord", I'm not kidding. The first time we see it - a moment replicated in the trailers - it looks like the roof of the world ripping off, which seemed, from the trailer-point-of-view, a cool visual metaphor for phildickian revelation of the facade of reality being torn asunder. Not so much, in the actual execution - the roof-ripping is just the necessary and near-instantaneous prelude to the aliens attaching God's Bungee Cord to the now-unnecessary character so that he or she can be catapulted into the great empty sky. It resembles nothing so much as the punishment for getting a question wrong before the bridgekeeper in the Holy Grail.

The movie-logic never really recovers from the derangement caused by repeated operations of God's Bungee Cord, but I managed to make through to the sappy, unearned, Hollywood Ending. Normally I fulminate against Hollywood Endings, which often will ruin otherwise-decent movies like What Dreams Might Come. (Yes, I mostly liked that movie, although in the generally-laudable rush to hate the new, piously saintly Robin Williams, I seem to be the only one left in that position.) But a Hollywood Ending can only ruin a movie which has preserved its potential intact to that point of the movie. Ruining a good movie requires that one deliver a mostly-good movie-fractionate into the saccharine-stained hands of the Endmongers to ruin. You can't ruin a bad movie; you can only bring it to a close. So they did; at that point, who cares? Send the horse off to the glue-merchants or the knackers, it's a dead horse either way.

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