Good and Evil go another 15 rounds in Chuck Russell's Bless the Child, which shows us what The Exorcist and The Omen might have been like if Della Reese had gotten her hands on them. The movie's clearly been touched by an angel, but not before giving the devil his due. Looking as if she can't quite figure out how she wound up in the movie, Kim Basinger stars as Maggie O'Connor, a psychiatric nurse who's been raising her drug-addict sister's 6-year-old daughter as if she were her own. The little girl is...special--perhaps autistic, but more likely the Second Coming of Christ. She performs miracle after miracle; alas, Basinger's always looking the other way (toward the EXIT sign, no doubt). Then Rufus Sewell enters the picture as Eric Stark, an L. Ron Hubbard-ish guru who appears to be working for the Big Fella downstairs. Stark is a suspect in the recent wave of missing-child cases, all the children born on the same day. And wouldn't you know it, Maggie's niece was born on that day as well. There follows a series of kidnappings, escapes, rekidnappings, re-escapes, re-rekidnappings, re-re-esc...well, you get the idea. The low point, as far as plot mechanics go, is when Maggie sneaks into a dentist's office and, while nobody's looking, makes off with the child. "Though kid is biggest thing since Jesus Christ, still has to keep dental appointments," I jotted down in my notebook. Someone needed to give this script a routine checkup.
Keeping it clear what Good and Evil are capable of is one of the things that separate The Exorcist from, say, Stigmata. But Bless the Child can't seem to decide where the Devil's power ends and God's power begins, altering the balance to get itself out of plot jams. Why doesn't Stark kill Maggie? He certainly has the chance. A bigger problem is that Sewell's Stark never makes a good case for evil, never slithers his way into our hearts. At least since "Paradise Lost," Satan has been allowed his moment in the spotlight before being whisked off the stage. Without a satisfying villain, Bless the Child tries to seduce us with some of the cheesiest f/x since Ed Wood wandered the earth, including gargoyles out of a Saturday morning cartoon. Ooh, scary.