GENRE: Last gasp of a once-proud TV franchise
THE PITCH: Former FBI agents Mulder (David Duchovny) and Scully (Gillian Anderson) consult with a pretty G-woman (Amanda Peet) to solve a kidnapping that hinges on the alleged psychic visions of a pedophile priest (Billy Connolly).
MONEY SHOTS: The truth may be out there, but the money shots are M.I.A. The Fargo-esque snowbound landscapes look cool, a character falls memorably down an elevator shaft, and Mulder has a surprise reunion with a beloved supporting player late in the film. Otherwise, it's a suspense film with no memorable stunts and grisly make-up shots that go by so quickly, you can't make sense of them.
BODY COUNT: Well, we see that lethal fall and a number of severed body parts, including at least one arm and two heads, but it's hard to tally up the total number of fatalities -- probably no more than five. The movie's various surgical scenes, some in gruesome conditions, make it look less like "The X-Files" than a Hostel movie.
BEST LINE: "He wouldn't do anything crazy," one character remarks of the missing Mulder. Scully shoots him a priceless look, and he adds, "Relatively crazy."
WORST LINE: "I have taken it up with the highest authority, Dr. Scully, as should you," says a mean priest to Scully. She wants to use an experimental treatment to save the life of a dying boy -- who happens to be named Christian. The religious content gets pretty thick, hence the subtitle.
PRODUCT PLACEMENT: It might be a coincidence, but the good guys drive Fords. The novel Beautiful Wasps Having Sex lies conspicuously on Mulder's bedside table.
POLITICAL SUBTEXT: I get the feeling this film advocates stem cell research, from the way Scully Googles "Stem Cell Research," prints out documents about "Stem Cell Research" and repeatedly mentions the benefits of stem cell research. It's this close to being a drinking game.
INSIDE JOKES: Scully makes a passing reference to the show's previous psychics, including Peter Boyle's sad-sack Clyde Bruckman. A store called "Nutter's Feed" nods to David Nutter, who directed many episodes. Though set in West Virginia, the movie was filmed in Vancouver, British Columbia, the location for the show's first five seasons, and employed some of the same Canadian actors.
BETTER THAN THE ORIGINAL? No, falling much shorter than both the show and the previous movie, The X-Files: Fight the Future. It's essentially a double-length version of one of the show's occasional "Scully episodes," which would focus on her religious beliefs rather than Mulder's pet paranormal phenomena. But it's no fun at all and looks worse than the show ever did, like a straight-to-DVD release accidentally shipped to theaters.
THE BOTTOM LINE: After nine TV seasons and one movie constricted by convoluted conspiracy theories, one can appreciate creator/director Chris Carter's attempt to do a self-contained story for the new film. But I Want to Believe offers none of the traits that made "The X-Files" exciting and memorable -- no shape-shifting alien bounty hunters, black ooze or killer bees. The mystery proves neither compellingly written nor competently directed, and though it's nice to see Duchovny and Anderson back together, the film will only appeal to the folks who write "X-Files" fan fiction on the Internet.