The Aisle Seat - Movie Reviews by Mike McGranaghan
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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan


Closer to God

Closer to God should come with a warning label on its advertising: “May cause viewers to experience extreme deja vu.” This is yet another movie about the dangers of cloning – one with a thoroughly stale approach to the subject. Would you believe that cloning could have negative side effects? That's about as deep as the film gets. Really, the only thing that distinguishes Closer to God is its bargain basement production aesthetic.

Jeremy Childs plays Dr. Victor Reed, a geneticist who has just successfully cloned the first human being. He's not ready to show the baby, a little girl he names Elizabeth, to the world yet, but the media finds out about her existence anyway. Soon, Reed has religious protestors and TV crews camped out in front of his house, much to the dismay of his wife. There is, however, a bigger problem. Reed cloned another child previously, and this one – a boy he keeps hidden away – is uncontrollably violent and erratic. Predictably, that little secret goes on to cause big problems.

Closer to God feels like it was made by someone who's seen a lot of other thrillers about cloning and is simply copying them. Writer/director Billy Senese has difficulty finding substance or originality within his story. The development of its ideas is paper-thin. A movie like this needs to deeply explore the moral quandaries of cloning. Closer to God stays right at the surface, never showing the courage to investigate what it would mean for a scientist who tried to pull it off and didn't quite succeed. The film's approach seems to be, “Why dig deep when we can have a monster child instead?”

And really, cloning is far too big a subject to tackle on such a low budget. Closer to God often comes off as cheap. Reed is supposed to have hordes of protestors in front of his house, but it looks like a small gathering of people rather than teeming masses. The failed clone, meanwhile, is seen only in shadow or quick cuts, apparently to hide the fact that they couldn't come up with a convincing makeup job for the actor portraying him. Cloning is a large canvas on which to work. You can't short-change it, which is exactly what Closer to God does at every turn.

Compounding the problem is that the supporting characters are vaguely drawn. It's very difficult to tell who they are or what their connection to Reed is. They're here solely to react or serve as plot points. Closer to God additionally has some significant storytelling flaws. The film is plagued by plotholes, and a substantial amount of much-needed exposition never arrives. (The issues of how Reed accomplished his task and what exactly went wrong the first time are completely glossed over.) Poor pacing also causes the movie to undermine its own suspense. Rather than eliciting chills, Closer to God tends to elicit severe boredom.

In the end, there's insufficient perspective on the topic. It's used as a simple device to tell a half-baked story that's been told many times before, often much better than it is here. Closer to God envisions itself as a modern-day Frankenstein, but quite honestly, even Tim Burton's satiric Frankenweenie is a more thoughtful, incisive look at the act of playing God.

( out of four)

Closer to God is unrated, but contains language and some bloody violence. The running time is 1 hour and 21 minutes.

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