I think The Sixth Sense ruined it for all of us. Sure, it was a great movie, but now that there is any kind of thriller out there, we now automatically expect a mind-blowing twist ending, like seeing dead people or something silly like that. The problem with that is...not all thrillers can be written by M. Night Shyamalan, and the ones that aren't, rarely deliver the twist ending like Night can, with the phenomenal exception of last year's horror wonder, Saw, and maybe a few others. So we're left with thrillers that just don't quite deliver, when it comes to the ending. Hide and Seek comes so damn close, however. It's seriously about an edited paragraph in the script away from being wonderful. It's just that close, but, unfortunately, no cigar.
Hide and Seek starts out on "The First Day of the New Year" as they state at the beginning, or New Years Day for the rest of us on Earth. We're in New York City and Alison Callaway (Irving) is tucking her young daughter Emily (Fanning) in for the night. After a few quaint moments between mother and daughter, Alison heads downstairs to her psychiatrist husband, Dr. David Callaway, where they have a few awkward moments, before David heads to bed, and Alison takes a bath. David is awoken early in the morning (the exact time proves relevant, but not as fully explained as it could've been), when he goes to the bathroom to find his lovely wife has taken her life in the tub. Being the patriarchal figure, David decides they need a fresh start, and moves Emily and himself out to the country, upstate, against the wishes of his colleague and Emily's friend, Dr. Jean Grey...um, I mean Katherine (Janssen). When they get there, they find themselves to be practically alone (it's the off season) but they both manage to find new friends. David finds Elizabeth (Shue) a recent divorcee and Emily finds Charlie, who just happens to be an imaginary friend. Then mysterious things start to happen, and Jean Grey and her X-Men must get to the bottom of this... sorry, I couldn't resist, but the mysterious things part is accurate, of course.
The acting here isn't a problem at all, with splendid performances from DeNiro, Janssen and Shue, who hasn't appeared in much lately, with her last major role being in 2000's Hollow Man. DeNiro hasn't had too many "Dad" roles, and when he is a dad he's either an uptight prick (See: Meet the Parents) or an unstable, borderline psycho (See: The Fan). he plays a mellow, caring father quite well here, and while it seems unlikely he'll have too many more roles like this one, it seems he can do a fine job in this sort of role. Janssen and Shue don't really have a ton of screen time, but they hold their own nicely. The standout performance here though is Dakota Fanning, which isn't really much of a shocker if you're familiar with her work. She is incredibly talented, especially at the young age of 10. She has immense range, and plays this disturbed little girl to perfection. She will get an even higher profile this summer when she appears alongside Tom Cruise in War of the Worlds, and it appears the sky is the limit for this young actress.
Not unlike my home football team the Minnesota Vikings, this movie's story starts out strong, builds up nicely, but ends dissapointingly. The character development is solid, there is a very nice story arc, with some nice foreshadowing and flashbacks that keep you guessing. When we get to the end, and the big payoff, it doesn't pan out so well. There are a few red herrings here, which is fine, but they get developed enough to where you think there will be at least a brief explanation of them, but we get nothing. Red herrings are just supposed to throw you off the filmmaker's scent, but when it's developed as much as it is here, you need some explanation, and it's just left unanswered. It's just disappointing because they come so damn close to tying it off wonderfully. It's not a horrible ending, really, it's just been done before. They just needed a quick change here and there, and it would've explained everything, left no holes in the story, and would've turned it into a very solid flick. But, that was not the case.
Director John Polson has a nice creepy touch to him, and I was pleasantly surprised with his 2002 effort Swimfan. He directs nicely here, with a great touch for suspense. He does a great job in working with actors who have not done these sort of roles before. I think he should've had some more work done with the script, especially since the writer, Ari Schlossenberg was making his debut here, but other than that, Polson's direction is effective.
Hide and Seek is a movie about mental strain, dealing with a loss, and the dangers of playing a popular childhood game. This flick is rather entertaining, but it just doesn't give us the ending we need. It's close, so very close to being a good movie. But then again, they say close only counts in horsehoes and hand grenades...