The Forgotten

on September 24, 2004 by Christine James
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"1-800-MISSING" gets plugged into "The Matrix" in this psychodrama-turned-paranormal thriller, but it plays less like "The Twilight Zone" than a Bizarro World Lifetime Channel Movie of the Week. The film starts off powerfully, despite the fact that Julianne Moore plays a woman who is inexplicably named Telly (just you try to banish the triangle-fixated "Sesame Street" muppet from your mind). Telly is in psychiatric care with Dr. Munce (Gary Sinise) to help her through the trauma of the death of her eight-year-old son 14 months earlier in a plane crash. She is completely wrapped up in memories of young Sam, though she is making a conscious effort to minimize the amount of time each day she spends mooning lovingly over photos, videos and memorabilia. She also strives admirably to repair her marriage to her patient husband, Jim (Anthony Edwards)--until her treasured pictures and mementos begin disappearing. She viciously turns on Jim, accusing him of trying to erase Sam from their lives. The shock of her life comes when Jim claims Sam never existed; he's a figment of her imagination--an assertion Dr. Munce supports. When they suggest institutionalization, she flees to the apartment of Ash (Dominic West), the father of Sam's friend Lauren, who was also killed on the fateful flight. However, he claims he never had a daughter and doesn't know what Telly is talking about.

Never doubting her sanity, Telly convinces Ash of Lauren's existence when she discovers that under a wall covering in what used to be Lauren's room is a mural the girl painted. This jogs Ash's memory, and the two set off to find out who--or what--is behind the nefarious mind control that has eradicated their children's existence from the memories of all who knew and loved them. And why, when the malevolent force has done such a thorough job of erasing all traces of the kids, it would leave such a salient clue as the aforementioned mural under some casually affixed burlap. Well, actually, they don't pursue that mystery, but they should have--especially when a much more believable and psychologically interesting solution would have been to have the ultra-determined Telly recreate the mural from the memory of one of the now-purloined photos she cherishes so deeply.

While the supernatural element that emerges is an intriguing twist, it's not taken far enough beyond whispered conspiracies with dire implications and the film's patented Ty-D-Bowl Flush special effect. And, given the lack of intervention by Will Smith in the third act, a truly happy ending is inherently precluded. File this case under "X-"tremely anticlimactic. Starring Julianne Moore, Dominic West, Gary Sinise, Alfre Woodard and Linus Roache. Directed by Joseph Ruben. Written by Gerald Di Pego. Produced by Bruce Cohen, Dan Jinks and Joe Roth. A Columbia release. Drama/Thriller. Rated PG-13 for intense thematic material, some violence and brief language. Running time: 91 min

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