Missing ‘Files’

Indiana Jones, you have been beaten.

For the title of Most Useless Return to the Big Screen has now been stripped from your arthritic fingers and that sash can now be draped over Dana Scully and Fox Mulder, the two leads in this summer’s “X Files” film, “I Want to Believe.”

The film follows a pedophilic priest (played by Billy Connolly) whose stigmatic visions lead the FBI on a field trip to find some missing persons, including a fellow agent. The priest is eerily spot-on in his assessments, suggesting some possible paranormal connection, necessitating the call to the pre-eminent pair of investigators of the idiosyncratic, Scully (played by Gillian Anderson) and Mulder (played by David Duchovny).

Scully is now gloomily working in a church-run hospital as the anti-Patch Adams, armed with a bag full of dour expressions and gloomy consternation instead of rubber noses and floppy shoes.

She has secretly shacked up with former partner Mulder who shows he’s changed from his days of ghost-busting by – wait for it – growing a beard. Yup, that’s what passes for progression here.

He’s been long out of the game, ostracized by the agency, painted as a pariah but it takes him a total of about 20 seconds to reconsider everything and agree to help with this new case.

What they uncover has nothing to do with black tar, bumblebees, cancer men or E.T.s. In fact none of the staples that held “Files” together are even casually mentioned (didn’t the last film touch upon the fact that 2012 marked the end of the world as we know it? Well, they feel fine.).

In fact, it’s a police procedural straight out of the “CSI” playbook, with a dash of “Hostel”-style captivity and instrumental torture thrown it for good measure.

From that perspective, matters are slight but marginally entertaining. Yet even the most strident “X-phile” will have difficulty mustering enthusiasm that this film merits big-screen treatment.

To wit: It’s now been 15 years. Both Mulder and Scully are in a (seemingly) committed, platonic relationship. Do they really still need to refer to each other by their last names as they did at the start of the series?

Also, when the sunny Dr. Scully suggests to the hospital board that stem cells could possibly save a child’s life, the resourceful doc sits down in front of a computer and pulls up Google and types is “stem cell research.” From what medical college did she graduate? That’s really going to be her starting point for saving a child’s life?

I won’t even get into the big discovery in which I half expected to see Rosey Grier’s head to be lying around when it veers into “The Thing with Two Heads” territory.

It was rumored the film was written under the gun to beat the writers’ strike earlier this year, and that rush job is felt through every scene and nuance, from the threadbare storyline to the semi-engaged performances from the leads.

I should confess to being only a casual follower of the show, viewing perhaps a handful of episodes during its televised run. I can appreciate it for its contribution to the TV landscape, from which shows such as “Heroes” and “Lost” are direct descendants, with the complex mythologies and theatrical-quality production values.

But there is no sign of its interstellar-conspiracy-tinged scope to be found here. Series creator and writer/director Chris Carter boxes in his characters in a mystery that even Jessica Fletcher would be at home solving on an episode of “Murder, She Wrote.”

For the remaining die-hard fans of the series, though (judging from the weak opening of the film, there are precious few left), I implore you not to sit through the closing credits, which features a scene that seems about as satisfying as the Seinfeld finale.

For the rest, the truth remains out there, in some better movie.

~ by usesoapfilm on July 28, 2008.

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