- The Washington Times - Friday, July 25, 2008

As “The X-Files: I Want to Believe” opens, the series’ characters have reached their logical endpoints. After leaving the FBI, Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) soldiers on as an M.D. in a Catholic hospital, railing against the bureaucracy therein. Fox Mulder (David Duchovny), meanwhile, lives a solitary life as a bearded hermit in the woods, whiling away the days cutting out newspaper clippings.

I’d say nothing has changed, but I can’t quite remember how the television series ended; after chugging along admirably for most of the 1990s, the cult classic hit an abrupt wall in 2000. Mr. Duchovny left the show, Miss Anderson had one foot out the door, and the creators seemed to lose interest. In 2002 it went off the air and then, for six years, there was nothing.

That stretch of radio silence is a problem, since “I Want to Believe” assumes a level of familiarity few will have any longer. We’re meant to understand that Mulder is living in isolation, I think, but after Scully stops by to enlist him in solving the disappearance of a young FBI agent, the two are later seen in bed together like it’s old times. So which is it? Is Mulder shacking up with Scully, or is this just a relapse into past amorous adventures? Other than the fact that the two obviously care for each other, their relationship is never really examined.

And just try making sense of the plot. There’s the aforementioned missing agent, who has something to do with a pedophile priest receiving visions. There’s an overlapping story line dealing with a child, his rare illness, and Scully’s efforts to save his life by Googling how to perform stem cell surgery. (Seriously: She types “stem cells” into Google, and the movie jumps to her performing surgery.)

There’s a Russian doctor performing surgeries that would be comical if they weren’t handled in such a gruesome fashion. (Well, they’re still kind of comical, just not for the reason series creator and movie producer-writer-director Chris Carter would like.)

The supporting cast is hit and miss. Amanda Peet is good, if kind of bland, as FBI agent Dakota Whitney, whereas her counterpart, Xzibit, endows his FBI agent Mosley Drummy with exactly one expression: a furrowed brow complemented by a menacing scowl. Billy Connolly makes the best of limited material as the pedophilic priest.

“I Want to Believe” exists independently of “The X-Files’” complicated extraterrestrial mythology, focusing instead on home-grown topics like psychic detectives and radical organ transplant therapy. The underrated strength of the series was always its one-shot episodes - the tidy little numbers that worked outside of the show’s convoluted, multiseason conspiracy theories. This flick is a thriller in that vein.

The problem, however, is that it comes off as a sloppy, second-rate entry in that catalog. The antagonists’ origins are completely opaque, their motivations only mildly less so. Forty-four-minute television shows can get away with that; 104-minute movies cannot.

..

TITLE: “The X-Files: I Want to Believe”

RATING: PG-13 (violent and disturbing content and thematic material)

CREDITS: Written, directed, and produced by Chris Carter

RUNNING TIME: 104 minutes

WEB SITE: http://xfiles.com

MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS

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