Bless the Child

Directed by Chuck Russell
Starring: Kim Basinger, Jimmy Smits, Rufus Sewell, Ian Holm, Angela Bettis, Holliston Coleman, Christina Ricci.
MPAA Rating: R for violence, drug content and brief language.

Review by Matt Heffernan <>
August 14, 2000

If you're going to make a bad film, you should really avoid reminding your audience about better ones. 8 Women made that fatal error by constantly referring to Fellini's 8. I can forgive the makers of Bless the Child for including a brief clip of Duck Soup, but the distributor should have known better that allowing a trailer for the upcoming re-issue of The Exorcist to be attached.

This excuse for a supernatural horror film stars Kim Basinger as Maggie O'Connor, a recently divorced psychiatric nurse. In December of 1993, her kid sister Jenna (Angela Bettis) came to her apartment with her newborn daughter, Cody. They hadn't seen each other in two years, but the reunion was cut short when the heroin-addled Jenna ran off, leaving Cody behind.

For six years, Maggie raises Cody, who has been diagnosed as autistic and must go to a special school. Maggie just thinks she's "listening to something we can't hear." It turns out that an evil cult is looking for a child with special powers, who was born on December 13, 1993; and wouldn't you know, that's the day Cody (now played by Holliston Coleman) was born, and she can spin things -- really fast. The cult has kidnapped and murdered five kids born on that day already, but none of them had the powers they were looking for. Former seminary student and current FBI Agent John Travis (Jimmy Smits) is on the case, and has now taken special interest in Cody.

Could Cody be the second coming of Christ? Bless the Child never comes right out and says that, but it is certainly implied. You'd think, though, that He would find a better movie in which to show up. Basinger isn't having much luck, either, putting out another dead-on-arrival film on the heels of I Dreamed of Africa. If her goal is to make people forget that she won an Academy Award for her last film before this year, she is doing a good job.

Reason, however, would have to dictate against that. This film is a lazy, meandering, makeshift combination of recent films that have apocalyptic themes and others with spooky kids. Added to the mix are some amazingly inept computer graphics. Images of rats and demons litter the screen looking exactly like enemies in a bad video game. There are no real moments of shocking terror, but whenever the tiniest amount of suspense is built up, something stupid -- like those graphics -- comes along. Bless the Child wants to be The Exorcist, but it just continues to disappoint.

The really sad part was seeing actors being wasted. Basinger and Smits haven't been on a roll, exactly, but Ian Holm shows up for little more than a cameo. He gets pretty good billing, but his character is forgotten as soon as it's introduced, and this is from an actor who just gave the performance of a lifetime in Joe Gould's Secret. Worse yet is Rufus Sewell, who is relegated to a sneering, scenery-chewing villain role. He is still at the beginning of a promising career, but this film could ruin his future in Hollywood. Hopefully, nobody will see it, and we can just go on pretending that it never existed.

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Bless the Child (2000)

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Review © 2000 Matt Heffernan