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Hide and Seek

Fox // R // July 5, 2005
List Price: $29.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Scott Weinberg | posted June 11, 2005 | E-mail the Author
The Movie

The fact that the Hide and Seek DVD comes complete with four (!) alternate endings tells you all you really need to know about the way the film was constructed. Yep, five separate endings* were shot for this movie, one of which would be chosen to cap off one of the most dreary, obvious, and pedantic "thrillers" you're ever likely to see. So what the DVD producers see as "extra features" I see as affront to the actual art of storytelling. Every story has one ending, and if you can somehow construct five different endings that'll all "fit" -- then you're not telling a story. You're building a shelf.

(* Another hilariously interesting note about the ending of Hide and Seek: during the movie's opening weekend, the studio made it publicly known that the final reel would be delivered "late" so as to protect the shocking finale -- when in fact the producers probably just hadn't picked which one they wanted yet!)

Everything about the turgid Hide and Seek screams of lazy, rushed filmmaking, a complete lack or originality, and a huge lard-like dollop of unimaginable blandness. It's about a middle-aged guy and his 9-year-old daughter who head off into a wooded cabin after Mommy slits her wrists in the bathtub. And then the little girl "adopts" an "imaginary" friend who likes to vandalize bathrooms and...

...know what? I reviewed this movie not five months ago when it hit theaters for eleven days. And while I was gladly willing to give the flick a second chance, it turns out my opinions have not changed one whit.

Hide and Seek barely even qualifies as a movie. It's an easily digested piece of commercial product, not unlike a loaf of bread or those pantyhose that come in an egg. This is a commodity entirely pieced together by a committee and an assembly line. It trots out the world's oldest and hairiest "thriller conceit" (A creepy child's "imaginary friend." How novel.) and then proceeds to beat the thing to death for 95 endless minutes. And tossed on top of this ridiculous piece of generic fluff is the formerly reputable Robert De Niro, an actor who seems single-mindedly intent upon destroying his sterling reputation.

What's most mind-boggling about Hide and Seek is how astonishingly skinny the whole thing is. There's precisely ONE plot point in the whole tired affair, and there's zero in the subplot department. (Supporting actors Dylan Baker and Famke Janssen are probably wondering why they keep getting "Hide and Seek" residual checks.) This tired little greeting card of a thriller slogs aimlessly through its one-note narrative with one clear goal: make it to the end credits before one unique concept can raise its head. The key line of dialogue that's repeated throughout the movie? "Trauma causes pain." And the filmmakers are clearly under the impression that this is somehow deep and meaningful. Oh, my sides.

This movie exists for only two kinds of people: those who are too scared to sit through a real "thriller" (as in: something that actively "thrills" you) - and those who currently work for Robert De Niro. If you don't fit into either of these categories, feel free to avoid Hide and Seek forever. And the less said regarding the horrible things that young Dakota Fanning is subjected to in the name of cinematic stupidity, the better.

As someone who admires Robert De Niro almost as much as he loves horror movies, trust me on this one: Hide and Seek's a waste of money, and yes, that'll still be true when it hits the $5.50 bargain bin.


Video: The widescreen (2.40:1) anamorphic transfer is probably the most impressive thing about Hide and Seek -- even it gets a mite fuzzy in the (numerous) darker scenes.

Audio: Both the Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS tracks deliver a fine aural presentation. French and Spanish (DD 2.0) tracks are also available. Optional subtitles in English and Spanish are included.


Pop the DVD in and you're asked if you want to watch the theatrical cut or Hide and Seek with one of the four alternate endings. So you can opt to watch Hide and Seek five consecutive times, and each visit will give you a different ending! And then you smash your own forehead with a rock.

The alternate endings are labeled Happy Drawing, Life With Katherine, One Final Game, and Emily's Fate -- although the one that director John ("Swimfan") Polson chose to include in the theatrical cut has to be the silliest and most horror-movie-obvious of the lot. (Maybe.) The alternate endings come with optional commentary (by Polson, editor Jeffrey Ford, and screenwriter Ari Schlossberg) in which the filmmakers overstate the obvious repeatedly. Plus it's always great to see a trio of filmmakers so lovingly beholden to the whims of test market audiences.

Polson, Schlossberg and Ford also sit down to contribute a feature-length audio commentary, which is precisely the sort of arid and self-congratulatory affair one might expect. The guys clearly admire the movie they've crafted ... and they're welcome to it.

Further confirming what a concise and well-constructed movie Hide and Seek is, we have a collection of 14 deleted scenes, all of which can be watched in one interminable 19-minute block -- with or without the filmmaker's commentary. Drink a beer every time of the the commentators say "great," "relaxed," "less is more," or "on the page." Plus it's never a good sign when your director, screenwriter, and editor are saying things like "Oh, we cut this scene out?" and "I've never seen this part!"

The Making of Hide and Seek is your standard on-the-set EPK gush-fest in which cast & crew members give their project a lot more gravity than it deserves. There's very little "making of" material in this 10-minute time-waster -- unless you never actually knew that sprinklers were used to create the illusion of rain.

There's also a trio of Previs Sequences entitled Charlie Chases Emily, Katherine Confronts Charlie, and Final Moments of David and Emily. Polson narrates a bunch of storyboards as you slowly nod off to sleep.

Final Thoughts

Hide and Seek is only slightly better than entirely worthless because I never thought I'd get to see a movie in which Robert De Niro, Dakota Fanning, Elisabeth Shue, Famke Janssen, Amy Irving, and Dylan Baker could combine to deliver so amazingly little. That's a pretty mean feat if you think about it.

(Portions reprinted from my original (theatrical) review of the film.)
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