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Hide And Seek is senseless!

Arthur J Pais | January 31, 2005 20:28 IST

Hide And SeekNever mind the trauma Hide And Seek inflicts on the viewers who go to see it in good faith, one just cannot ignore first-time screenplay writer Ari Schlossberg's extraordinary luck.

Normally, this movie project with its preposterous plot, unending train of coincidences and dialogue that announces the next banal twist ('There's nothing to be scared of in those woods,' says a character and you can well imagine what happens next) and huge potholes would have ended up as a violent and senseless B-film.

It is still a violent and senseless film, but since it stars Robert De Niro and a raft of intelligent artists including Dakota Fanning and Elisabeth Shue, it is seeking a higher profile.

How Schlossberg managed to psyche the tough Hollywood executives is a wonder.

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De Niro has done many appalling films in the past decade but some of his less terrible movies such as Meet The Fockers have brought him legions of fans who might not know him from his Taxi Driver and Raging Bull years. But Hide And Seek is among the worst films he has chosen. If he doesn't see the writing on the wall, he must be made to seek a career therapist.

De Niro plays New York psychologist David Callaway who leaves the city for a wooded seclusion with daughter, nine-year-old Emily (Dakota), soon after his wife (Amy Irving) slashes her wrists in the bathtub.

The therapist (Famke Janssen) who is helping Emily put the past behind her pleads with David not to take the child out of therapy.

From the moment the father and daughter arrive in the small town, you get the feeling something is going to happen. Emily is walking around as if in a trance. The friendly woman next door seems genuine but could one trust her husband? The local sheriff looks weird.

Hide And SeekEmily suddenly reveals she has found a friend, Charlie, and does not need any other pal. Charlie is invisible but soon, he starts leaving visible signs, just as Emily is getting scared of him: dolls are defaced and menacing messages are left in the bathroom. David refuses to believe Charlie exists.

Before David starts believing there could indeed be a Charlie, he has met Elizabeth (Elisabeth Shue), a divorcee. In no time, Elizabeth is visiting him wearing a low-cut blouse. A few scenes earlier, Emily had scared Elizabeth's niece so much we thought the child would die of shock. But when the aunt visits David and Emily, there is no mention of the event.

The drama builds up when David decides he must do something about Charlie. The nasty Charlie has been telling Emily her father is good for nothing. Charlie even tells the little girl her father could not satisfy the mother.

Hide And SeekDavid's decision to fight Charlie leads to more violence and gore in the second half, as Charlie becomes more vengeful. 

The press notes say the film isn't just a thriller, and is also about relationship between a father and daughter. But there is hardly a moment when you feel the bond. At one point, David announces to his daughter that he loves her as much as her mother did. You know immediately what she is going to say. Every second scene in the film seems utterly predictable.

Makes you want to take a bet: Who was really sleepwalking in the film -- De Niro or Dakota?

To be fair to this talented actress, there are moments when she is riveting. Watch her reaction when she stares at a girl having fun with her aunt Elizabeth. An enigmatic but sweet smile emerges, and you know immediately that Dakota is not sleep walking. But such moments are rare.


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