Let’s say that it’s a day like Super Bowl Sunday and a network wants to keep you glued to its channel after the game and right into bedtime.
So they hype a two-hour special based on a familiar series. Let’s say that it’s a super special edition of “X-Files.” What you might get is what you receive in “The X Files: I Want to Believe,” a tantalizing thriller in which Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) comes out of seclusion; authorities hope he will locate and rescue a missing FBI agent. Persuading him to make his whereabouts known is Dana Scully, his old pal, partner and lover, played by Gillian Anderson, who I want to see in more movies.
That’s right, “X-Files” fans: Consider this feature film as a big-screen, two-hour TV special that runs 16 minutes short of two hours with no commercials. It’s well-done for what it is — an extended, high-budget TV thriller in a bigger venue. No aliens, but a mystery whose details I cannot fully divulge.
But there they are, together again. Scully and Mulder embarking on a whodunit chase in the wintry wasteland of West Virginia, where Scully is a doctor in residence at a Catholic hospital, fighting a priest-administrator who wants her to give up on saving a boy with a rare, presumably fatal disorder. This is but a subplot to the more pressing issue at hand. An agent is missing; the FBI needs Mulder to assess the veracity of another priest — this one a psychic who says he knows where the agent is.
The X-Files: I Want to Believe
DIRECTED BY Chris Carter
SCREENPLAY BY Frank Spotnitz and Chris Carter, based on TV series created by Carter
STARRING David Duchovny, Gillian Anderson, Amanda Peet, Billy Connolly, Alvin “Xzibit” Joiner and Callum Keith Rennie
RUNNING TIME: 104 minutes
Alas, another priest; his name is Father Joe.
Scully takes an immediate dislike to him, and considering he’s a convicted pedophile who has sexually assaulted 37 altar boys, you kind of understand. But as played by Billy Connolly, Father Joe also may have been chosen by the deity as a conduit. Now that’s a fair trade: 37 messed-up kids for the safety of one FBI agent. The lord works in strange ways, and when the shamed cleric starts bleeding from his eyes, you gotta think maybe this is one of God’s strange ways. Has a molester been chosen by someone up there to do the right thing? Mulder is convinced. Scully can’t get past the image of 37 victims. Surely, something bizarre seems to be going on.
Those darn priests.
Ably directed by creator and co-writer Chris Carter and seizing on contemporary scandal, this “X-Files” episode tries very hard to be about something grave and important. But really, it is about nothing more than a search for missing persons, a lab deep in the woods, clerical psychobabble and some weird experiments uncovered by the forensic duo we will eventually see in bed together. On the nightstand next to them is a book titled “Beautiful WASPS Having Sex.” Is this an in-joke for fans of the series?
He believes, she doubts, and circumnavigating the narrative is this ersatz theme of Catholic atonement. The only time the movie does hit on something worth thinking about is Father Joe’s lament that he might have been chosen by the deity to have these awful carnal temptations for innocent boys. Is this all God’s fault for allowing evil to exist? It’s deep, dark stuff; ideas the movie quickly abandons for a chase in the woods and a perilous rescue.
It’s all gripping big-screen TV.