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Good Heavens! Goldblum's Hell of a Flick

OpArt

By Judith E. Dutton

Hideaway

directed by Brett Leonard

starring Jeff Goldblum

playing at Sony Fresh Pond

There are only three good things about Brett Leonard's thriller "Hideaway": its heaven, its hell and Jeff Goldblum. The rest can be wrapped up as cliche characters, cliche plot and violence that is gratuitous yet surprisingly dainty.

Goldblum yet again puts his pensive, puzzled face and the arching eyebrows to work. (Remember his tortured scientist-turned-insect role in "The Fly" and the prophesizing scientist in "Jurassic Park"?) His newest movie might well be renamed "A Study of Goldblum" or "Goldblum: Closeup and Personal" based on how often the camera decides to dwell reverently on him.

This time he's a family man named Hatch who dies and is brought back to life. In his trip to the other side and back, he becomes psychologically linked to a killer who particularly enjoys killing 'bee-yooteeful leetle gurls'--Hatch's own daughter (Alicia Silverstone) included. Hatch is gonna stop him by slowly piecing together how their minds are linked.

It is a predictable plot with a predictable set of characters. We have the doctor who knows too much but isn't telling. We have the fortune teller who knows too much in her own convoluted, ghostly way. We have young girls fleeing through dark tunnels and squirming in passenger seats. And at the end of it all, we have a good old heaven versus hell shootout with Hatch and the killer as pawns. Simple, folks. Here we go.

Best-selling author Dean Koontz is not known for his subtlety, and, in general, movies water down any intricacies books have in the first place--so you can see we're stirring a pretty thin soup here. Luckily, film can do one thing that books can not: special effects. The only new and memorable thing about Hideaway is what is new and memorable about a lot of recycled stories of good vs. evil on film, the awesome, computer-generated special effects. Our trips to the other side swirl us through a bubbling multicolored cyberworld where amorphous hands and faces coalesce out of vapor and disperse into another face, another hand. It's as good or better than an acid trip, and very psychedelic and cool and all that.

But back to the plot, that stuff we must bear when they turn off the computer graphics and Heaven and Hell are hanging out backstage resting up for their next entrance. The strands of the plot come together with annoying cuteness, like a Christmas gift with two many bows tied onto it. First of all, Hatch has a deeper motive in getting the killer. Haunted by his first daughter's death, he wants to redeem himself by saving his other daughter. Secondly, the doctor who knows but isn't telling, the doctor who brought Hatch back to life, is the very same doctor who brought the killer back to life. Then the neatness becomes oh-so-strangling when we realize that the doctor is the killer's father, who knows he's created a monster but can't bring himself to put an end to his own flesh and blood.

As for the bad guy, the movie fails to provide either a fresh rendition that sparks our interest or the good old-fashioned kind which satisfies. This devilspawn is nothing more than a punk. He is short and scrawny. He has gothically black hair that hangs in his eyes, and yes, like so many cool dudes, he wears sunglasses at night. He could have been the Edward Scissorhands backup.

And to top it off this devil-spawnedpunk is an arteest, a sculptoor, and his big project is this altar to the devil that he's building out of the bodies he kills and collects (correction--the women's bodies he collects. He killed a man, too, but must have thought the corpse wasn't aesthetically pleasing enought to incorporate).

Violence in this movie is of the throat-slitting genre, clean and unmessy as if a surgeon designed it. Suspense is used in a crude but effective way-killer lurking behind doorway, killer lurking in closet, killer lurking behind shower curtain. That's it-the violence and suspense are neither gory nor great.

Paltry in the two areas movies of this genre can usually muster up a storm, the movie caves in to cool--the punk's lair is the underground of an amusement park replete with maniacal roller-coaster rides with all those innocent kiddy-overtones that work pretty well in horror scenes. But in a movie which fails to provide the groundwork for such a fantastical image, the kiddie rides comes off as a last-ditch attempt to revive a movie that is already D.O.A.

Oh god, the cliche's continue. There's Hatch's young virgin daughter tied to the altar of the killer-devil spawned-punk's artistic masterpiece, screaming "Daddeeeeeey!" There's the doctor, who has realized his wrongdoings and runs off to grab Hatch right before he dies in order to say, "Forgive me..." In the end, of course, Hatch saves his daughter and wife hero-style. He slings his arm over each woman, and the family walks with synchronized strides into the dawn, having overcome tragedy and all the closer for it.

Yes, this is a movie as Christine Lahti (the wife) said, "about a family being reunited and ending up much stronger because of some terrible things that happen to them." Okay...what movie isn't about becoming closer through hardship?

"Hideaway" weeps for its own lack of inspiration, demonstrating with pitiful clarity how movies have been reduced to good actors and good special effects exploited to the hilt--Jeff Goldblum's just his loveable self, and heaven and hell are much revamped and looking pretty spiffy. Whether this is enough to get us through the movie is another question.

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