HIDE AND SEEK (John Polson, 2005)
In the thriller HIDE AND SEEK psychologist David Callaway and his daughter Emily move from the city to the country in the aftermath of his wife’s suicide. Robert De Niro stars as David, and Hollywood’s favorite little darling Dakota Fanning plays Emily. Understandably, Emily has difficulty dealing with her mother’s death. Her emotional turbulence manifests itself in the form of Charlie, who may or may not be her imaginary friend.
For two-thirds of its running time HIDE AND SEEK plays out as an unremarkable thriller that at least has the good sense to take itself seriously and keep the nature of what or who Charlie is secret. The lack of supporting characters weakens the suspense, although ultimately HIDE AND SEEK isn’t a solvable mystery. Too many modern thrillers hinge on a hard right turn that viewers can’t see coming. M. Night Shyamalan’s film endings frequently catch audiences unaware, but he also leaves clues that repeat viewers will realize they missed the first time. HIDE AND SEEK goes off the rails when the secret is brought into the light because it feels like a cheap gimmick, and not an original one at that, as if the filmmaker is saying, “You didn’t see that coming, did you?” Dakota Fanning usually gives me the creeps, which makes her particularly well cast as a wicked little girl. De Niro is above material like this, even if the last few years demonstrate that he’s not being terribly selective. He doesn’t embarrass himself until the film’s end.
(Review first aired on the February 1, 2005 NOW PLAYING)