July 25, 2008


"The X-Files: I Want to Believe": This suspenseful, intimate movie reminds us why we've always believed in Mulder and Scully. (Stephanie Zacharek, Jul. 25, 2008, Salon)

It's hard to say if "The X-Files: I Want to Believe" is exactly the movie fans of the revered series -- which aired from 1993 to 2002 -- are hoping for. The relatively straightforward plot involves only minor trickery, and you don't need much previous knowledge of the "X-Files" universe to follow it. The director, Chris Carter, the creator of the original show, has dispensed with the convoluted mythology that bogged down the show in the last third of its run. "I Want to Believe" comes off like a solid -- if not great -- episode from one of the show's early seasons, a reasonably suspenseful story made by a director with a sturdy sense of how to tell a story.

Yet it's the very modesty of "I Want to Believe" that makes it so admirable. Carter doesn't try to meet or exceed fans' expectations so much as create an intimately scaled dramatic universe for his fiercely beloved characters, Dana Scully and Fox Mulder, to inhabit, circa 2008.

'The X-Files: I Want to Believe': Back in the Spookiness Racket (NICOLAS RAPOLD, July 25, 2008, NY Sun)
An earlier spin-off feature, subtitled "Fight the Future" and released at the show's height in 1998, roiled with the show's febrile matrix of extraterrestrial intrigue. In "I Want to Believe," the series's creator, Chris Carter, who directs from a script he wrote with a longtime show scenarist, Frank Spotnitz, puts his faith in a stand-alone story. It's essentially a Frankensteinian B-horror premise that gives its star duo the excuse to muse on whether they still believe.

Neither agent is officially in the spookiness racket anymore. Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) is putting her medical degree to work as a pediatric surgeon at a Catholic hospital. The FBI, stymied by the case of an agent's disappearance, enlists her to coax out Fox Mulder (David Duchovny). He's still in hiding from the military, as per the un-summarizable state of affairs left by the series finale way back when.

The case, introduced with a parallel-action opening belying years of finding fresh ways to begin episodes, is standard-issue: grisly murders (limbs and bodies found buried in the snow), tracked by an unsavory psychic (Billy Connolly as Father Joe, a pedophile ex-priest). Against the wintry backdrop of a whited-out countryside and occasionally Vancouver, Mulder and Scully trade references, regrets, and avowals, though she's also hesitant and preoccupied with a dying patient. Aggressively useless FBI investigators (headed up by Amanda Peet and Xzibit) festoon the proceedings with police manpower and insinuations.

The play of skepticism and headlong curiosity that first gave the pair their appeal is deadened by Scully's unease about the whole endeavor, and its romantic corollary is tossed off with an almost amusing casualness. Deprived of the paranoid pleasures of the show's "mythology," the writers serve up some Slavs engaged in involuntary body-part acquisition and stir up a vague Catholic menace via Father Joe and a hard-nosed priest administrator at Scully's hospital. (Contemporary markers include a dig at President Bush and a regrettable clue involving the Massachusetts marriage certificate of two male villains.)

Maybe this would be okay television, but like an unflattering close-up, this particular X-file loses its mystique when it is blown up to feature length.

With the exception of the episodes written by Darin Morgan, the only reason to watch the show after the first couple seasons was for the mythology development and the characters--the plots were pretty redundant.

Posted by Orrin Judd at July 25, 2008 10:38 AM

Good Lord, OJ.

Did you like M.A.S.H. too?

Goofy lefty propaganda.

Posted by: Benny at July 25, 2008 5:22 PM

There are far too many people who think that "The X-Files" was a documentary. (And think that "Red Green" is fiction.)

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at July 25, 2008 7:17 PM

I had to go back and re-watch "Jose Chung's From Outer Space" just on the basis of you reminding me of it here. Gillian Anderson, Charles Nelson Reilly, Jesse Ventura, and Alex Trebeck. They don't make TV shows like that anymore. At least that's what I've heard; we canceled our cable (TV, not the internet) years ago.

Posted by: HT at July 25, 2008 8:12 PM

MASH was good until Henry and Trapper died and Radar became an innocent.

Posted by: oj at July 25, 2008 11:16 PM

The Peter Boyle one is great too. And the one with the carnies.

Posted by: oj at July 25, 2008 11:19 PM

I stopped watching M*A*S*H when it seemed like every episode involved Hawkeye picking on Frank. I started to dislike Hawkeye and feel sorry for Frank.

Posted by: PapayaSF at July 26, 2008 12:09 AM

Frank Burns is one of the best characters ever. The antagonists on sitcoms are always more interesting than the protagonists. (see also: Rimmer, Arnold Judas)

I don't mind if a show has a lefty slant like MASH. I'll either ignore it or roll my eyes or point out when it's being accidentally conservative. As OJ likes to say, the classic plots are all conservative so any show with any degree of success is going to be going back to that well in spite of itself.

Hey, speaking of lefty TV, tomorrow is Norman Lear's birthday. The most interesting character on All in the Family was Archie Bunker.

Posted by: Bryan at July 26, 2008 2:44 PM
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