Advance word on “The Forgotten,” the latest film from “Dreamscape” director Joseph Ruben, gave little hint as to the nature of the forces working behind the scenes against the film’s protagonists. The latest previews seem to give a little more away, which is disappointing, because I think seeing the film without that knowledge might help audiences enjoy it a little more. Not to say there are any “Crying Game” moments to look forward to, but for the 2% of you who are concerned about such things, I’m going to warn you that I intend to divulge the not-so-secret secret that pretty much anybody who’s watched Fox in the last ten years has probably already figured out.
Still here? Groovy. Now then, “The Forgotten” introduces us to Telly Paretta (Julianne Moore), a mother who still mourns the death of her son Sam in a plane crash some 14 months ago. Try as she might, and despite the best efforts of her husband Jim (Anthony Edwards) and Dr. Munce, her therapist (Gary Sinise), she just can’t let go. When pictures of Sam start disappearing, Telly at first assumes Jim is trying to force her to accept the loss, but it quickly becomes apparent, as more and more Sam-related paraphernalia vanishes, that something else is afoot. Eventually, her husband and doctor inform Telly that not only has she never had a son, but she’s made up the memories of one as a result of some delusion. Telly refuses to believe this, and seeks out Ash Correll (Dominic West), the parent of another one the dead children. Ash initially thinks she’s a nut, but comes around, and the two are soon on the run from the NYPD, the NSA, and the sinister forces manipulating everything as they try to uncover the truth about their children.
In case you’re still reading this and haven’t sussed things out from the previews showing people getting sucked through ceilings, Telly and Ash discover that bug-eyed aliens are behind the disappearance of their kids, and it’s roughly about this same time that “The Forgotten” ceases to be a moderately engaging mystery and morphs into an implausible alien abduction caper, albeit one with a few decent thrills (two of which you’ve already seen in the previews which, if you haven’t figured out by now, you really shouldn’t be watching in the first place).
Personally, I found the choice of casting more intriguing than the ho-hum plot. Mainstream success continues to largely elude Julianne Moore. In spite of some well-received roles in various critically praised films (“The Hours,” “Boogie Night”), Moore’s big budget forays haven’t exactly set the world on fire (“Hannibal,” “The Lost World”). As a result, she’s remained under the general public’s radar, except possibly as “that woman in the Revlon commercials.” Dominic West, on the other hand, is best known for his role as Jimmy McNulty in HBO’s “The Wire,” which is the best show on TV none of you people are watching. All in all, they’re an interesting choice to headline “The Forgotten,” a film that – let’s be honest – isn’t exactly poised to make a hug box office splash here in the cinematic No Man’s Land between the summer and holiday movie seasons.
Does it work? Yes and no, I guess. Personally, I’ve always though of Moore as a great and underappreciated actress, so I may be a little biased, but if there’s anything to recommend about “The Forgotten,” it’s her performance. The rest of the principals are solid; West is fine as a disconnected alcoholic, and Gary Sinise and Alfre Woodard handle their minor roles competently. No, my problem isn’t with the acting, it’s with the plot that never seems to get in gear and the increasingly unbelievable series of resolutions that ultimately lead to a conveniently pat ending.
And the score…James Horner’s god-awful, movie of the week score. If Ruben was hoping to be taken seriously with this effort, he should’ve sat Horner down and said, “Jim, for the love of Benji don’t go all ‘Bicentennial Man’ on me and make this thing sound like some damn Sunday night CBS tearjerker, which, unfortunately, is exactly what happens.
I suppose you have to credit the filmmakers with even attempting to put together a relatively sober mystery in which the bad guys are extraterrestrial psychoanalysts, but “The Forgotten” ends up hamstringing itself by betraying some sturdy acting early on with a shiny, happy ending that contrasts earlier pronouncements about the power of the bad guys. Besides, there isn’t much here any semi-regular viewer of “The X-Files” hasn’t already seen a dozen times before.