Hide & Seek Movie Review

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If the ridiculous title and the cheap emotional blackmail of putting a pretty little girl in peril aren't enough to tip you off that "Hide and Seek" is a rotten horror movie, then describing its myriad of other deficiencies may be a waste of time. But it's my job, so here goes:

Robert De Niro plays an entirely unconvincing and apparently inept psychologist whose wife's sudden, terrible death has traumatized his young daughter, played by the almost unsettlingly talented Dakota Fanning ("Man On Fire," "Uptown Girls"). Hoping to take her away from it all, he moves them to a cavernous, remote house in the dark, foreboding woods of upstate New York, and proceeds to make every conceivable wrong choice toward both their healing processes (locking her in a room when she begs not to be left alone, for example), while also getting equally irresponsible advice from a kiddie-shrink colleague he left behind (Famke Janssen). Anyone working in the field of mental health would likely throw up from seeing how roundly this movie insults their profession.

Emily (Fanning) becomes hollow and cold to new friendships, save her growing, spooky bond with "Charlie," an imaginary pal who -- it becomes clear after a few horrible accidents -- may not be so imaginary as her daddy believes.

While Fanning gives such a perfectly frightened performance that it's hard not to wonder what's wrong with her Hollywood stage-parents for letting her take such a role in such a movie, De Niro seems to be phoning it in as her clueless pop. A minimal effort from a once-great actor can still prop up a bad picture, but when De Niro is upstaged by 10-year-old, that speaks volumes about his level of interest.

With lots of transparently manufactured scares (cats jumping out of closets, shower curtains being flung open), many red herrings of varying credibility (vaguely creepy neighbors and sheriff, etc.), occasional point-of-view shaky-cam from no character's point-of-view, one pretty good twist, and a laughable da-da-daaaammmm finale, "Hide and Seek" ranks as nothing more than a standard-issue bloody chiller with a respectable cast slumming for an easy paycheck.

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Hide & Seek Rating

" Terrible "

Rating: R, WIDE: Friday, January 28, 2005

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