I have exactly 7 movies left to review in my year with Kinnear.1 For my next movie, I chose Godsend and this is notable for exactly 4 reasons:

  • 7 is the number of perfection so it’s fitting to choose a movie with God in its title.
  • 4% is what Godsend scored on Rotten Tomatoes, making it Greg Kinnear’s lowest rated movie. Only this blog (or footnote) will say if it’s actually his worst movie.2
  • 1 of Greg’s co-stars is the actress formerly known as Rebecca Romijn-Stamos. When Godsend dropped, she was in the process of divorcing Full House heartthrob John Stamos while fresh off her role as Mystique in X-Men and X2. Both actors were rising stars in 2004, but Greg and Rebecca’s pairing as on-screen romantic partners is certainly one of the most unique pairings in his filmography.
  • 5 is the number of Greg’s movies that are about infertility or peculiar pregnancies.3 The premise of Godsend is that things get weird when Rebecca births a clone of their deceased son. It’s Greg’s 3rd horror/thriller movie.4

That’s it. Those are the 4 definitive reasons (no more, no less) that Godsend is the 7th-to-last movie that I review for my year(s) with Kinnear! Thanks for humoring my “fun with footnotes” and “fun with numbers” intro. Now I’ll review the movie, which is potentially why you opened this page.

1 Wait! It’s 6 if you’ve been counting. But I wish to review Misbehavior even though it isn’t out yet. I’m very interested in both its subject matter and Greg’s costuming.
2It’s not. There are at least 3 of his movies that are much, much worse (Feast of Love, English Teacher, Same Kind of Different As Me).
3I discuss all 5 here. I’m 99.9% certain that if Greg reviews a script with any major plot point on conception he immediately accepts. No questions asked.
4They are ranked as follows from best to worst: The Gift then a large gap then Strange But True then a small gap then Godsend.

Godsend (2004)

Directed by Nick Hamm, the movie’s setup is pretty good. Greg and Rebecca are happily married city-dwellers with young son Cameron Bright. The movie opens with the family gifting Cameron a red letterman jacket at his 8th birthday party. The next day, Rebecca takes Cameron to buy sneakers. Cameron runs into the street and is killed by an oncoming car. At the funeral, evil-looking scientist Robert De Niro approaches Rebecca and Greg about using Cameron’s cells to create an identical clone. No pressure, but they have to decide within 72 hours or Cameron’s cells will no longer be viable. (De Niro is apparently a scientist incompetent in the basic skill of cryopreservation).

The happy family before Greg and Rebecca resort to cloning Cameron. Photo Credit: Lionsgate Home Entertainment

Eventually (aka within 72 hours), the couple decides to clone Cameron. This involves implanting his stem cells (as De Niro puts it, these cells can be ‘shocked’ into all other cell types) into Rebecca’s womb so she can start the pregnancy from scratch. The family moves to a remote location, terminates previous friendships, and keeps the news secret for legal (but apparently not moral) reasons. Clone Cameron is born and we next cut to his 8th birthday. De Niro comes to the party as he remains a close family friend. Greg worries that CloneCam will start to experience strange things now that he’s reached the age when OG Cameron died. His concern is justified that same night. CloneCam experiences a trance where he sees himself in a red letterman jacket being bullied by kids at a school that is on fire.

Would you let this guy clone your son? Asking for a friend. Photo Credit: Lionsgate Home Entertainment

The visions continue. CloneCam sees himself bludgeoning a lady in a tool shed in the woods. CloneCam sees himself being suffocated by a shower curtain in the bathtub. CloneCam sees his real-life schoolyard bullies as the same bullies in his school-on-fire visions. Eventually, CloneCam kills the main schoolyard bully and gets away with it despite Greg’s suspicions. All of these visions are meant to be scary, but they’re mostly confusing. In CloneCam’s visions, he’s wearing the same red letterman jacket as OG Cam so it seems like it’s a simple case of haunting. But none of the visions jive with OG Cam’s life and are seemingly random. In short, the movie gets messy as its story becomes a string of nonsensical jump scares.

Meanwhile, Greg and Rebecca frequently contact De Niro for advice. He chalks the visions up as garden-variety night terrors. Suspicious of this explanation, Greg seeks external advice and keeps pressing De Niro. Biology is conveniently the subject matter Greg teaches, and one day he has the idea that CloneCam is potentially “turning on” DNA elements integrated with the cloning process (nevermind the epigenetics required to induce transcriptional programs at exactly 8 years of age). With the help of hypnosis, Greg finds out the boy in CloneCam’s visions is named Zachary and the school on fire is St Pius.

Greg breaks his 8-year “Shelter-in-Place” remote living mandate and drives to the city to investigate. He finds out that Zach was De Niro’s son. Zach was constantly bullied at his school (St Pius), so he set it on fire. The family maid suspected Zach and unsuccessfully tried to drown him with a shower curtain in the bathtub. The next day, Zach bludgeoned his mom with a hammer in a tool shed then burned his house down with himself inside. All of CloneCam’s visions now make sense, because a second entire plot has been layered on the first one.

Greg and Rebecca try to troubleshoot CloneCam’s trances. Photo Credit: Lionsgate Home Entertainment

Greg confronts De Niro (at the funeral for the boy CloneCam killed because of course De Niro is trying to clone that kid too). De Niro admits to inserting some of Zach’s DNA into the cloning process (who knows how this works) meaning now that Zach’s DNA is “turned on” he’s possessing CloneCam (again, who knows how this works). (Note: De Niro couldn’t just clone Zach because Zach’s cells were too damaged by fire to save anything besides DNA. So to bring back “pieces of Zach” he had to insert DNA fragments into other clones. This is all highly scientifically sound). The two get into a shouting match and De Niro bludgeons (presumably killing) Greg. Meanwhile, Rebecca can’t find CloneCam and searches for him in a tool shed. Zachary-possessed CloneCam is hiding in the shed to kill Rebecca. Right as he’s about to kill her, Greg stops him (surprise, he’s alive!). The family move to a new town to start over with Zach still possessing CloneCam. De Niro goes on the lam.

In sum, the setup was good and the end effectively used cut scenes to build tension between the “Zach reveal” and Rebecca’s near-murder by CloneCam. That said, the movie is a mockable scientific mess. It’s also a narrative mess, with disparate main story lines and secondary story lines as dead(-end) as the schoolyard bully. And it fails as a horror movie, relying on cheap thrills and jump scares. Godsend deserves its poor reviews.

Paranoid Parenting

There’s something to be said for Greg’s first decade of acting. He brought a youthful earnestness and intensity to many of these roles. Here, he eagerly portrays his character’s primary beat: a paranoid parent ever on-edge that something could go sideways with his clone son. Early in the movie, he has decent chemistry with Rebecca Romijn as the couple shares a few fleeting happy moments. Like their sons’ birthdays or buying a new home where Rebecca can develop her photography hobby (another dead-end secondary story line).

Greg is a paranoid parent suspicious of a shady scientist. Photo Credit: Lionsgate Home Entertainment

But Greg and Rebecca are set on diverging character & acting tracks once their original son dies. Rebecca is immediately willing to explore cloning, super trusting of Robert De Niro, and insufficiently worried about CloneCam’s trances. In contrast, Greg is intensely morally conflicted about cloning, super distrustful of Robert De Niro, and increasingly frightened that something’s wrong with his son. Greg displays almost the full range of fear throughout this movie: from small worries (about CloneCam’s odd mannerisms) to panic (when CloneCam enters trances) to strong suspicions (about CloneCam killing the schoolyard bully) to angry outbursts (when he almost runs over CloneCam) to outright rage (at De Niro’s duplicity). It’s a one-track performance, but not a one-beat performance as Greg well-exemplifies the varying degrees of paranoia.

It’s a decent performance, but can’t overcome all the plot gimmicks to save the movie. A change in the narrative structure would’ve also made for better performances from both Greg and Rebecca. The movie could’ve either asked each actor to forge a strong parental bond in fretting over their son or become angrily distanced from each other as their CloneSon creates an irreparable wedge between them. Instead, the movie asks so much less of both actors as they are treated like islands whose different parental concerns evade actual character tension through plot gimmicks and a resolution-that-isn’t-a-resolution (you noted that CloneCam was still possessed by Zach, right?).

Summary

  • Godsend is Greg’s lowest-rated movie on Rotten Tomatoes (4%) and also stars Mystique from X-Men.
  • Greg loves movies about peculiar pregnancies, and in this one he and Mystique clone their deceased son but Robert De Niro injects some DNA from his own deceased son. It doesn’t end well, but it also doesn’t end not well.
  • Greg shows increasing degrees of paranoid parenting as he frets about cloning, shady science, and weird trances. It’s a decent performance, but Godsend is still a cheap horror movie.
Decent job, early-career Greg Kinnear.
  • Next-up: From Greg’s lowest to highest-rated movie, we’ll watch Little Men.

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