July 25, 2008

X-Files We Want to Believe (but It’s Just Not Working)

By Jason Foster

Only in the world of "The X-Files" could you have a story with two-headed dogs, a Dr. Frankenstein wanna be and a psychic pedophile and, as a viewer, say, "OK, I'll go along."

At its best, the long-running hit show had a way of making you believe - or at least wanting to believe - that whatever supernatural or just plain odd tale it dished out was completely plausible.

It hasn't lost that power in the aptly titled "The X-Files: I Want to Believe," but the magic the show possessed in its heyday is barely present, despite appearances from those seemingly otherworldly things I mentioned in the first sentence.

The film is set six years after the conclusion of the events of the television series and finds former FBI agents Mulder (David Duchovny) and Scully (Gillian Anderson) living distinctly different lives. Mulder's mostly living an existence of collecting newspaper clippings and Scully's working in a Catholic hospital, trying her best to distance herself from her old life spent, as she puts it, "looking into the darkness."

When an FBI agent goes missing and a pedophiliac former priest (Billy Connolly) contacts the agency claiming to have had a vision about the missing agent's whereabouts, the FBI seeks out Mulder, in hiding to avoid facing what he considers bogus federal charges, to help connect the dots.

In exchange for having those bogus charges dropped, Mulder reluctantly agrees to help and convinces Scully to tag along. And, with that, the team is back together and a perfectly serviceable "X- Files" storyline unfolds.

But that's the real drawback of "I Want to Believe."

Much like the first "X-Files" feature film, 1998's "The X-Files: Fight the Future," this one would've made for a better episode - told over an hour on TV - than a full-length movie.

The chemistry between Duchovny and Anderson is still there, but the story fails to engage the way the series did on television during its heyday. The filmmakers (series creator Chris Carter returns here as director and co-writer) say they wanted "I Want to Believe" to be a standalone experience, so viewers with little or no knowledge of the original series could jump right in and enjoy. That's true to an extent, but someone who's never watched the show probably isn't going to find this incarnation all that appealing. Much of the appeal is seeing Mulder and Scully working together again and several references are likely to go over the heads of "X- Files" virgins.

As a standalone film, "I Want to Believe" isn't bad; it's just not as compelling as something that carries the "X-Files" tag could be. Granted, it's a been a while since Carter and his team were together, so maybe everyone was just a little out of practice.

Here's the bottom line: "X-Files" die hards find reasons to love this movie. Casual fans, like me, will wish it was better.

Grade: C+

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