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Sunday, February 13, 2005

Jon Breen

The current movie Hide and Seek illustrates a problem with most film reviewing. Having read the critics we usually read, in the L.A. Times and Wall Street Journal, and listened to some more on our local public radio station, Rita and I had decided it must be one of the classic turkeys of all time, and despite the promising-looking trailers and our enthusiasm for Robert DeNiro, we’d pretty much decided to give it a miss. Indeed, some of the reviewers were indicting DeNiro for lowering himself to accepting such a potboiler at all, accusing him of just taking on the project to finance his film festival.

But then the ads for the film started to include some glowing quotes from reviewers (and these were print reviewers, not TV and internet quote whores) that proclaimed it a classic of nail-biting suspense. We decided we’d give it a try after all. How bad could it be?

Well, it’s not bad at all. It’s not great by any means, but it’s a good, solid diversion, eminently worth seeing if maybe not worth buying the DVD for repeat viewings. Most professionally made films that make it to the theatres are like that: okay, if you like that sort of thing. Very few are masterpieces, while a few more (but not all that many) are total disasters. Movie critics don’t seem able to say that very often: generally a film must be praised to the skies or damned as garbage with no in between allowed.

A couple more specific points on Hide and Seek, without giving anything away. The ending is a surprise, but in retrospect the only possible solution. And one of the elements of the plot that reviewers were quickest to jump on as implausible is in fact a clue to the outcome of the movie. The filmmakers have practiced fair play, the very thing we mystery traditionalists look for and don’t always find.

One other thing: at least one reviewer implied the performance of Dakota Fanning as DeNiro’s daughter (yeah, his daughter, not his granddaughter) was no challenge to her talent, a slam dunk, she could have phoned it in. The movie world seems to be taking this kid for granted. By any rational standard, her performance is extraordinary for a child actor and one of the key elements in making the film as entertaining as it is.

Jon Breen
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