The Forgotten is very aptly named: I’d forgotten a lot of it by the time I hit the lobby (I think I was trying to block its pervasive preposterousness and rampaging ridiculousness from my mind).
Not that I didn’t enjoy the film in bits and pieces — mostly for its unintended hilarity (there are far more solid laughs here than in most recent comedies). The movie does contain at least two genuinely effective shocks — one of which is actually related to the story — but it’s all just too silly to add up to anything persuasively thrilling, or even moderately creepy.
The Forgotten is also one of those unfortunate films that includes a couple really primo howlers in the dialogue. As the story self-destructs, we are treated to the line, “This has gotten out of control.” Truer words were never spoken. And long after the film has worn out its welcome, we get that most depressing of announcements: “This isn’t over” (those three words haven’t been so thoroughly disheartening since Vin Diesel said them in A Man Apart). Of course, this is mostly the fault of the script by Gerald Di Pego, which comes as no surprise since he was also responsible for Angel Eyes.
Still, that doesn’t let director Joseph Ruben off the hook. Ruben, after all, helmed Sleeping With the Enemy, where it never seemed to occur to him that there had to be something wrong with a heroine who didn’t think it even slightly peculiar that her husband liked to make love to Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique — notably that part of the piece based on the mass for the dead, Dies Irae. So there was no reason to suspect that Ruben was likely to notice the unconscious humor here. And he didn’t.
Julianne Moore plays Telly Paretta, who has spent 14 months grieving over her dead son, Sam (Christopher Kovaleski, who is, for some inexplicable reason, seen in videos and flashbacks that are all shot in the colors of 1960s 8mm home movies). Her attachment to the boy is meant to be moving, but it’s nearer creepy in its obsessively fetishistic quality. None of that hardly matters, however, because it turns out that she’s grieving over a son who, it seems, never existed. At least that’s what her nebbishy husband (Anthony Edwards, Thunderbirds) and slightly sinister shrink (Gary Sinise, who is incapable of not being slightly sinister) tell her — and us.
Ah, but there’s more afoot than meets the eye, as is proven when Telly hooks up with Ash Correll (Dominic West, Mona Lisa Smile), who also lost a child in the plane crash that supposedly claimed Sam. Now, Ash doesn’t remember he had a daughter till Telly manages to jog his memory, but then …
OK, if all this sounds a little silly, that’s only because you don’t know the rest of the plot. And without giving too much of the story line away, I can’t tell you a lot more. Let’s just say that it involves some pretty goofy science-fiction and aliens indulging in experiments that make such 1940s nonsense as Bela Lugosi shooting up with “ape fluid” to turn himself into the title character of The Ape Man seem positively reasonable. This might have played as agreeable rubbish, but instead The Forgotten takes itself so seriously that it alternates long stretches of tedium with arrant nonsense. The film is ultimately nothing more than an overlong, sub-par X Files episode with delusions of loftiness.
Julianne Moore appears to think that she’s in a vehicle on par with The Hours when in fact this is nearer to Evolution. Dominic West is saddled with one of those improbable drunk roles: He kills a fifth of whisky every night, yet never slurs his words, is always perfectly coherent, never suffers a hangover and is always perfectly groomed. Anthony Edwards is merely uncomfortable looking, like he’s living in hopes of a Revenge of the Nerds reunion movie. Only Alfre Woodard as a smart cop who isn’t buying into the cover-up really manages to emerge with her dignity intact — an accomplishment of some note, given her character’s fate. And about that fate: I defy anyone familiar with Monty Python and the Holy Grail to witness the villain’s comeuppance and not think he’s just failed to correctly answer, “What’s your favorite color?”
My advice on The Forgotten? Forget about it.
— reviewed by Ken Hanke