ENTERTAINMENT/FILM/REVIEWS

A Black Man’s Review Of
“X-Files: I Want To Believe”

X-FILES: I WANT TO BELIEVE (PG-13)

Movie Biases:
Why “X-Files” and why now?

Major Players:
David Duchovny, Gillian Anderson, Amanda Peet, co-writer/director Chris Carter.

Logline:
A psychic, disgraced priest (Billy Connolly) with visions of a missing FBI agent lures former agents Mulder (Duchovny) and Scully (Anderson) out of self-imposed retirement to join the manhunt, one with supernatural implications that test the beliefs of our dynamic, conflicted duo.

The Deal:
In speaking of “The X-Files” movie, Thursday’s “LA Times” posits this question in an article subheading: “Has the TV series been off the air too long for its big-screen comeback to pay off?” In a word: YES.

Maybe “The X-Files: I Want to Believe” isn’t for me. Y et if that’s the case, chances are that “X-Files” isn’t for you either. Having never watched the series but fallen in love with the first “X-Files” movie to the point of owning it, I am what you would call a casual fan of the would-be franchise, one shrouded in otherworldly, metaphysical mystery. But to this casual fan, whatever momentum achieved during the series and its previous big screen incarnation has been lost since the series’ 2002 departure.

Marked by a typically clandestine Carter-Frank Spotnitz concocted plot that, this time, feels like a pretty thin excuse to haul Mulder and Scully out of exile, “X-Files” features a furry-faced Duchovny, buried under a hill of fur and spirit gum, and his ever-reliable, tangerine-haired Scully, as skeptical and rational as ever. I guess their chemistry works. I say “I guess” because it’s been so long since the previous film that the time off and lack of continuity has made me forget whatever rapport they had besides their strange cop-straight cop routine. While Anderson’s Dr. Scully is bogged down by the self-righteously efficient bureaucracy at a Catholic hospital, Duchovny’s Mulder is a Unabomber-in-training, holing himself away in a remote home in a remote room, with enough wall-filled newspaper clippings to qualify him for an asylum or “A Beautiful Mind.” This being Mulder, of course he’s still haunted by the decades-long abduction of his sister.

However, Duchovny, a fine, Emmy-nominated actor for his brilliantly cracked lead on Showtime’s “Californication,” plays Mulder even more neutral than before as flatline EKG of a performance as I can ever remember. Kinda hard to feel for a guy who apparently has no feeling in his face.

Adding a somewhat miscast Amanda Peet and a definitely miscast Xzibit to the mix as cynical FBI agents (Xzibit, more cynical than the rest - and more annoying than gum stuck to the bottom of my shoe in its starched-shirt stiffness) is quizzical casting to say the least. Comic actor Billy Connolly, deliberately wacko, dials down the humor in favor of playing up the could-be-crazy filter through which our heroes must act.

Personally, even despite the onscreen time stamps and the harsh reality that missing persons beyond 72 hours are rarely found alive, I did not feel the urgency necessary in a film like this. Part of it is the implausibility of the plot, the other being the noticeable absence of dramatic heft, spurred on by “X-Files’” series siesta. I don’t know about you, but I have a hard time caring about a friendly acquaintance I last saw 10 years ago; does that make me shallow? Yeah, I know that “The X-Files” TV show singlehandedly keeps some basic cable networks afloat via syndication. But if you’re not an X-Phile, there’s not a ton to care about in this movie, however professionally executed. And it gets a little gross in the end, part of the reason I never really watched it on TV before. I’m a scaredy cat: I don’t like being weirded out week to week.

I’m also something else. In a summer full of compelling narratives, with “The X-Files,” I feel oddly…uncompelled. I just don’t see why they brought it back for this, a middling exercise in cinematic capitalism that will get lost in the shuffle with “The Dark Knight,” “Iron Man,” etc. Unless you’re an honorary member of The Lone Gunmen or Chris Carter’s wife, “The X-Files” dances on the edge of just getting The X.

@@ REELS
(TWO REELS)
Extra medium.

UTC’s resident film critic E