What does the typical robbery look like? A .22 jammed in the ribs of some sucker who took the wrong shortcut down the wrong dark alley? A cat burglar lowered slowly, silently by black rope into the jewelry room of a fancy home?
How about this: A family gets out of their car in a dark parking lot. It’s silent, save for the distant sound of screeching tires. With giddy anticipation, they enter a bright, promising movie theater. They spend $48 on tickets and $22 more on a dollar’s worth of popcorn and sparkling high fructose corn syrup. Then they sit down to watch The X-Files: I Want to Believe.
It really is the perfect crime. Small enough amounts are being fleeced from each of the millions of people who see I Want to Believe that there probably will not be a federal investigation. But mark my words: A massive, conspiratorial crime has been perpetrated on the American people.
I Want to Believe is not a movie. Thus, if you bought a “movie ticket” for it, you got robbed. It is, instead, a pastiche of eye-roll-inducing clichés, pointless conversations, logic-defying coincidences and a production that, from beginning to end, is so lazy, sloppy and utterly idiotic that one thing is quite clear: The producers must have tested it on audiences and then decided—like a sinister pharmaceutical corporation unveiling a new anti-depressant—to go ahead and roll it out anyway, despite the fact that suicidal thoughts were found to be among its many side effects.
At the beginning of I Want to Believe, we are reacquainted with Agents Mulder (David Duchovny) and Scully (Gillian Anderson). It’s been a decade since the last X-Files movie and it shows. Mulder—voluptuous, bearded, unemployed and tired—looks a bit like Al Gore shortly after he lost his presidential bid in 2004. Scully—weary, eyes straining for no apparent reason, brows furrowed in perpetual disbelief—has the air of Hillary Clinton shortly after she lost the Democratic nomination in 2008. The years of the current administration have been tough on us all but, apparently, for none more so than this defeated looking duo (which is the subject of I Want to Believe’s sole enjoyable moment. As the camera pans over a photograph of Dubya, The X-Files’ signature spooky theme music is played. Easy laughs.)
At any rate, Mulder is, as tradition would have it, “pulled back in” for one last job. Is it, you ask, some sort of governmental conspiracy involving aliens, bees of death, terrorists and Antarctica, like last time? Nope. Monsters, at least? Uh-uh. Killer chipmunks? No. Non-fatal-injury-causing chipmunks? You should be so lucky. Something that complex would require paid writers and special effects, which would only add to the overhead of the holdup. You can almost hear the producers saying: “Why not just make it about some Russian body parts traders? You get a homeless Russian and a tube of fake blood and bam!”
Whatever the reason, Mulder and Scully (can nothing break this woman’s skepticism?) must follow two FBI agents—played by the always awful Amanda Peet and the wasted, usually charismatic misogynist rapper, Xzibit—as they in turn are led about by a possibly prophetic pedophile priest (Doesn’t it seem like God intended that bit of alliteration?) who cries tears of blood.
Fortunately, for laughter’s sake, this quest requires a fat-boy chase scene in which Mulder partakes in what appears to be some special-Olympics parkour, working up a thick layer of sweat as he lethargically throws himself over hip-high railings and jumps across cracks in the sidewalk.
This bit of forced, clumsy, sad acrobatics is really the perfect visual synecdoche to stand for the entirety of the (non)effort. X-Files diehards: You will be disappointed more than anyone. Don’t be a victim!
The X-Files: I Want to Believe
Directed by Chris Carter and written by Frank Spotnitz and Chris Carter
With David Duchovny, Gillian Anderson, Amanda Peet, Billy Connolly and Xzibit
Dreamcatcher, Regal Stadium 14, 100 min., PG-13