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Hide and Seek

Hide and Seek is a yet another psychological thriller, this time revolving around a grieving widower dealing with his disturbed daughter and her equally disturbed ''imaginary'' friend. Sounds intriguing, doesn't it? It's not. They ruin it.


David Callaway (Robert De Niro) is having a tough time dealing with the apparent suicide of his wife (Amy Irving). His young daughter, Emily (Dakota Fanning), also has taken her mother's death very hard, retreating into her own little world. As a psychologist, David decides the only way to help Emily is to move from the big city to a house in the country. Sure, that kind of thing usually works like a charm. Emily does perk up a bit when she finds a new ''friend,'' Charlie, who likes to have fun and play hide and seek with her. Of course, we can't actually see this new friend but that's beside the point. The imaginary Charlie is still a powerful force in Emily's life, instructing her not to talk about him much and hating pretty much everyone else in her life, including her dad. In short order, bad things start happening--yes, the family pet gets whacked--which Emily blames on Charlie. This leaves David wondering how his little girl could have turned so psychotic. But wait. Maybe Charlie isn't imaginary after all, but actually a flesh-and-blood, malevolent presence. Oh god, do you think so?


Why, you may ask, would an acting icon like Robert De Niro, star of such classic movies as Raging Bull and Goodfellas, choose such a cheesy film as Hide and Seek? Very good question. Maybe he was drawn into the project based on the premise, like the rest of us, without realizing how derivative the story would get as things progressed. Of course, De Niro plays the confused father--dealing with what could possibly be a demonic child--with a fair amount of finesse. But he's a pro, that's what he does. Fanning (I Am Sam), too, does the best she can as the sunken-eyed, pasty-faced Emily. She sulks around, rarely smiles and draws scary pictures of people dying horrible deaths, which has now become a prerequisite for any child in a scary movie. In the supporting roles, Elisabeth Shue, Famke Janssen and Dylan Baker are all pretty much wasted. Shue, who hasn't acted in anything major since 2000's Hollow Man, makes a brief appearance as a potential paramour for David. Janssen (X-Men), playing David's colleague and Emily's confidante, thinks living in isolation is a bad idea (and she's right!). Veteran character actor Baker (Kinsey) takes on the predictable role of the hapless town sheriff who never quite gets he's about to be in a world of hurt.


It is always disappointing when the promise of something potentially creepy turns out to possess the same old tired plot points and scare tactics seen countless times before. Director John Polson--best known for helming Swimfan, another predictable stalker-gone-mad thriller--and novice screenwriter Ari Schlossberg don't have the necessary skills to take Hide and Seek above and beyond its conventional trappings. To its small credit, the film does build a bit of tension in the beginning as David and Emily skirt around each other, trying to grasp onto some kind of normalcy. Then when Emily introduces Charlie, you continue to hold out hope that somehow the filmmakers will channel some of M. Night Shyamalan's aura and start really scaring the bejesus out of you. But alas, it isn't meant to be. Instead, you're sitting there, pretty much guessing every move the film is going to make before it happens. When the twist finally comes around--you knew there was a twist, right?--it doesn't really surprise you, whether you've guess it or not.

Bottom Line

Even though Hide and Seek's chilling tag phrase--''Come out, come out, wherever you are!''--may be enticing, just stay right where you are. Don't even bother venturing out to see this unoriginal thriller.