Halfway into Joseph Ruben’s “The Forgotten”, one experiences a brief yet devastating existential crisis. While sitting dumbfounded before a movie that blooms onscreen like an ugly flower, the question arises, “Why am I here? Surely the world must be a depraved void if something as unfortunate as this is permitted to occur — there must be a reason for this travesty.” But there’s not. At the risk of sounding nauseatingly pretentious, I’ll say, “Congratulations movie-going Meursault, you’ve just shot your Arab.”
Coming down from the stratosphere of psuedo-intellect, here are a few explanations. “The Forgotten” runs off the tired movie equation of the crazy mom trying to find her lost child, and numerous cliches ensue. Julianne Moore plays the mother, Telly Paretta, with the same estrogen hurricane intensity she’s showcased for years. After a bird’s-eye pan over the Manhattan landscape, complete with “clever” disappearing text, we’re introduced to the pale Telly as she numbly wanders through the gray street. Next she’s in her apartment, a kind of dreary Pottery Barn hell, watching videos of her dead child, Sam. Her psychologist — Gary Sinise, with all of his intrinsic creepiness intact — thinks she should wean herself off her son and move on. Telly neglects his advice and continues to devour the tapes of her boy, before he boards his doomed airplane, as if they were an MTV reality show. Then things start to get dubiously interesting.
Telly realizes that cute little Sam is disappearing from her family portraits and suspects that her psychologist and husband are trying to ameliorate her misery by erasing Sam’s existence. But it doesn’t end there. Next, the audience suffers through 30 minutes of Telly, and her renegade “where’s-my-baby?” accomplice Ash (HBO’s Dominic West), running around Manhattan with limply taut suspense as they narrowly escape some government acronym (is it a cover-up? Who cares). Then the unthinkable happens. Enter the alien dimension.
“Have you ever heard of abductions?” Yes Telly, we have, however abduction movies have their 2 a.m. timeslot on TBS and don’t come with a $9.25 entrance fee. The alien dimension is almost impossibly difficult to master and portray effectively. In the hands of a good filmmaker armed with a solid script, the effects can be truly terrifying. Sadly, “The Forgotten” isn’t this fortunate, and the result is as painful, awkward, and comical as an Area 51 anal probe.
While Telly and Ash stumble around in a midsize sedan, they start to realize that aliens abducted their children — both on the same “crashed” flight that is redundantly referenced through excruciating flashbacks. Everyone thinks the dynamically annoying duo is crazy because their memories have been rebooted to make them forget. And faster than you can say “cheesy,” those that know too much are sucked into some magnetic alien vortex and transported to a space laboratory. To quote Keanu Reeves, “Whoa.”
Essentially the movie is like a stale reenactment of an “X-Files” rerun. The beautiful redhead and her accomplice drive around in the midst of government cover-ups and paranormal activity. However, even the “X-Files” seemed to pull off the ET shtick with grace. With “The Forgotten” we’re left with nothing but a cheap and forgettable thrill. By essentially constructing itself with trashed cliches of the thriller genre, “The Forgotten” loses any edge of uniqueness and feels as though you’ve seen it before. In this way, the movie erases itself from your memory by means of its sheer sameness.
Wait, what movie? Kidding. I could only be so lucky.