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Glenn Whipp, LOS ANGELES DAILY NEWS
Article Published: Thursday, January 27, 2005 - 7:07:58 AM PST
Don't even bother looking
By Glenn Whipp
Dakota Fanning in "Hide and Seek" (20th Century Fox)
Maybe you heard about the offhand remark comedian Kathy Griffin made about child actress Dakota Fanning during E! Entertainment's recent Golden Globes red carpet show. Griffin, basically hired to toss off idiotic wisecracks during an idiotic ritual, said, "We did hear a rumor that little Dakota Fanning entered rehab today and we wish her the best."
Little Dakota's people were not amused and made E! issue a public apology. Which is all well and good. But it makes me wonder that if Fanning's peeps (and I assume this includes her parents) were so aghast by this weird, offhand remark, what were they thinking while they were watching their 10-year-old tyke go through her paces in the bloody, psychological horror movie "Hide and Seek"?
Maybe they thought the film was a comedy. It sure plays like one. Director John Polson treats the waifish Fanning as a running sight gag, using her gaunt features and unblinking saucer-shaped eyes as the film's primary punch line, apparently not caring that the camp value deflates whatever suspense he might be trying to build.
The film opens with Fanning's character, Emily, witnessing an unspeakable tragedy. Her father, David (Robert De Niro, cashing another paycheck), is a psychologist and decides that it's best to uproot young Emily from her New York City home, her friends and her much-needed psychological care and relocate her in the middle of the woods.
There, she meets not the Blair Witch, but a friend (imaginary?) named Charlie who likes to play hide and seek and to goad Emily into mutilating her favorite dolls, and who suggests to Emily that "he would have satisfied" her now-absent mommy. (Another line that makes one wonder about hypocrisy of Fanning's image protectors.)
Meanwhile, David is having nightmares that always end at 2:06 a.m. and prompt him to take a trip down the hall, where he discovers something gruesome in the bathtub. Still, when a colleague logically suggests that, based on his daughter's increasingly psychotic behavior, it might be a good idea to return to the city, David replies: "I'm just afraid bringing her back will make her worse."
There might not be a funnier line in a movie this year. But despite the fact that a great many people at my screening were continuously laughing throughout the movie, the filmmakers seem to be sincere in their attempts to create some kind of twisty M. Night Shyamalan thriller. No dice. The premise is slight, the execution inept and the final revelation both facile and obvious.
It does have more laughs than De Niro's other current picture, "Meet the Fockers," but in this case, that's not much of a selling point. Kathy Griffin might think so, though.
HIDE AND SEEK
(R: frightening sequences, violence)
Starring: Dakota Fanning, Robert De Niro.
Director: John Polson.
Running time: 1 hr. 40 min.
Playing: Wide release.
In a nutshell: Horror film that plays like a comedy.
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