Robert De Niro is something of an enigma. Once the purveyor of incredible performances such as Jake La Motta, Travis Bickle, a young Don Corleone, he's now resorting to pay-check movies and with few exceptions, he's a shadow of his former self. Meet The Parents is probably the only movie of late where he's done the business but even then, he's just playing Robert De Niro by another name.
Which brings us to Hide and Seek.
Agent: Hey, Bobby Dee, it's your agent Sid here, how you doing?
RDN: What you got for me Sid? I'm dying on my derriere here.
Agent: I've got this script ...
RDN: I'll take it, I need a new conservatory and a stone-built barbecue pit I've got my eye on.
Agent: But Bob, you don't know what it ...
RDN: Sid, did you not hear me? I said, barbecue pit ...
Agent: Fine. I'll ask for the usual 20 million then ...
RDN: Good boy.
Hide and Seek tells the tale of a normal, happily married couple whose wife then boffs herself in the bath. At the shock and horror of it all, Robert De Niro's psychologist character takes leave of his senses and decides to haul himself and eleven year old daughter off into the country to inhabit a mysterious house in the middle of nowhere. Daughter then starts up a conversation with an imaginary friend who is a lot less friendly than it first appears. Cue lots of spooky hi-jinks as adults do stupid things, Dakota Fanning looks weird and viewers try to rouse themselves from a boredom-induced coma.
There are even a couple of star-turns by an ever-green Elizabeth Shue, Famke Janssen implausibly playing a psychiatric colleague and that bloke from Disclosure playing a copper with a mysterious agenda. Throw in some wild-eyed neighbours who lost their own kid and it all starts to add up to what could be a nice little chiller.
Of course, this being Hollywood and things like suspense, mystery or even horror aren't allowed to feature in any film where those attributes are deemed most suitable. Being the whole crux of the story, the imaginary friend thing is played out with inevitable tedium. Robert De Niro, an acclaimed psychologist loses all of his 'powers' and is unable to partake in even the most simplest of conversations with his daughter, something he is singularly supposed to be able to do because of his profession. He has to call a colleague for the most basic of advice. What? Are you kidding? What happened to the forty years of training you've had? You're a psychologist for goodness sake, go out there and .. psychologilize. That's what you do, you moron.
The plot progresses and stuff starts happening because the imaginary friend 'Charlie' says it will. 'You don't want to get him mad' says Emily. Right young madam, get off Facebook, put down the Blackberry and start going out to play in the fresh air. There's a weird cave in the 6000 acre garden we've just bought? Take a torch, a Mars Bar and a long ball of string. You'll be alright ...
It's not all bad. Dakota Fanning plays the part of Emily, the brat, I mean child in question, with great gusto. She acts Robert De Niro off the screen which let's face it, nowadays even the nativity play at the local infants school could do. The whole premise of the film *is* quite interesting. Who or what is the imaginary friend that is making all this spooky stuff happen is, I must admit, the only thing that kept our interest and the director goes to great lengths to ensure the secret is not let out of the bag until the right moment.
Once that moment comes, about three quarters of the way through, the rest of the film is played out like some by-the-numbers crappy thriller starring some Z-list actors that you've never heard of. Except this has got the great Bobby Niro in it and we're supposed to sit in amazed wonder at another fantastic performance by the King of Method. I wonder what 'method' he chose for this? Sitting in a potting shed for a month, talking to tomato plants? He may as well have done.
I'm trying hard not to give any spoilers away as the twist is quite big. What's with the weird neighbours and why is everyone obsessed with Emily? I'm never ever moving to backwoods US of A as they're all freaks, every single last one of them. Well, if Hollywood is to be believed, they are. Apologies to any US readers, don't blame me, blame John Polson, the director who encouragingly directed the interesting Swimfan (2002) and who then went onto do, erm, some episodes of some minor TV series', but not ALL of them you understand. Sheesh. I hope Bob got a really big barbecue pit because he'd need one to cook this turkey.
Released in 2005.
Rated 15. For what, I don't know. For the scares? No. For the ridiculous special effect of a dead cat? Are you having a laugh?
'Starring': Robert De Niro, Dakota Fanning, Famke Jannsen, Elizabeth Shue, That Bloke from Disclosure and who also starred in that other film with Kevin Costner about JFK. No, not THAT other one about JFK, the other OTHER one.
Apparently, Dakota Fanning took a pay cut from her usual million dollar fee a film just to have her name as star billing next to Robert De Niro's. What's wrong with these people?