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The X-Files: I Want to Believe Review

By Joe Lozito

Back together with an "X"


Six years after "The X-Files" went off the air, and a full ten years since it was first brought to the big screen (in 1998's stubbornly impenetrable "The X-Files"), series creator Chris Carter brings paranormal investigators Fox Mulder and Dana Scully back to the multiplexes with "The X-Files: I Want to Believe". Of course, six years is a long time. Whether audiences (fans of the show or otherwise) will remember Mulder and Scully, let alone where the series left off, remains to be seen. I, for one, was ready to (as the posters say) believe again. My faith was, as is often the case, only mildly rewarded.

When we first find Dana Scully, she's working as a surgeon (remember? she's a doctor) at a Christian hospital called Our Lady of Sorrows – a moniker that could apply equally well to our much-beleaguered heroine. Not ten minutes after that familiar six-note intro opens the film, Scully (embodied again by Gillian Anderson, looking as Hollywood-fresh as she did in the latter half of the series) has already been brought to the verge of tears (a skill Ms. Anderson has not lost). It seems Scully's had another row with hospital administration over the treatment of one of her patients (seemingly her only patient), a young boy with an incurable disease. Poor Scully; couldn't the boy have strep or something?

David Duchovny's Mulder, on the other hand, is holed up in a farmhouse somewhere in rural Vancouver. Well, it's not supposed to be Vancouver, but the filmmakers returned to the location where they shot much of the series. Mulder, if you will recall, is in hiding - on the run from an FBI looking to frame him for … something or another. Wisely, the script doesn't spend much time trying to get the audience up-to-speed on backstory. There's talk of Mulder's sister and Scully's son, and a fiendishly clever inside joke around Mulder's cell phone address book. But those references will mean little to "Files" newbies.

Instead, Mr. Carter and fellow "Files" mainstay Frank Spotnitz attempt to recapture the "freak of the week" standalone episodes from early "X-Files" fame, before the show was nearly asphyxiated by its own mythology. There's plenty of Mr. Carter's trademark talk of faith and doubt. Much of the philosophical debate revolves around a defrocked pedophile priest played by Billy Connolly who may or may not be a psychic. Mr. Connolly's scenes give Mulder and Scully plenty to argue about and harken back to the best days of the series. There are even some welcome supporting characters in two new FBI agents (Amanda Peet and Alvin 'Xzibit' Joiner) who run the investigation that drives the film (this time he's the skeptic and she's the believer).

Unfortunately, the plot, which I won't give away here, is less an X-File than an outlandish serial killer mystery - and not a great one at that. Echoes of "Silence of the Lambs" aside, the story is simply not very interesting and the actual detective work amounts to little more than "drive around until we find something". Not that "The X-Files" TV series was some great FBI procedural. But contrivances like these, which might have worked on the small screen, are stretched to the breaking point in the theater and do little to serve the characters or the story. In the end "I Want to Believe" ranks with some of the most average "Files" episodes. It will likely work better in "The X-Files" native environment, playing on TV. At least, that's what I choose to believe.

What did you think?

Movie title The X-Files: I Want to Believe
Release year 2008
MPAA Rating PG-13
Our rating
Summary Fans of the TV show may enjoy seeing Mulder and Scully back in action, but there's little in this run-of-the-mill mystery to attract the uninitiated.
View all articles by Joe Lozito
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