Why? Why resurrect one of the most beloved pop-culture phenomena of the Clinton era, after six years on the sidelines? The hopelessly tardy new X-Files sequel I Want To Believe never provides a compelling answer to that question. Then again, nothing about this sluggishly paced, tension-impaired supernatural snoozer is compelling. The last time a geek favorite delivered such an anticlimactic follow-up to a cherished science-fiction institution, a rascally, malapropism-spouting Rastafarian frogman named Jar-Jar Binks was prominently involved.
Chris Carter's too-little-too-late extension of his lucrative TV-series franchise finds a heavily bearded David Duchovny hiding out from the FBI while his erstwhile partner Gillian Anderson works at a Catholic hospital. The increasingly non-dynamic duo is called back into action when an FBI agent goes missing and the feds are reduced to relying on the questionable services of an ambiguously psychic pedophiliac, a former priest played with brooding intensity by Scottish comedian turned character actor Billy Connolly. In a subplot that somehow manages to be even duller than the main plot, Anderson must decide whether to perform a risky surgery on a desperately ill boy against the wishes of her glowering bosses.
The eminently passable first X-Files movie reconceived the series as a big-budget action blockbuster, but I Want To Believe never feels remotely cinematic. It's a peculiarly dour, humorless film filled with hushed conversations against snowy, interchangeable backdrops. Believe is so low-energy that Duchovny emerges as its most manic element by default. The sexual tension between Anderson and Duchovny, which once defined the show as much as its supernatural shenanigans, has all but disappeared, replaced by the sexless, dull relationship of geriatrics who tired of each other decades ago. With the exception of Connolly, the new characters are forgettable, especially a monotone FBI agent played with bludgeoning anti-charisma by rapper Xzibit. Like Exorcist: Dominion, Believe tries to invest a pop genre movie with an air of spiritual gravity, but instead it fails as both a solemn meditation on faith and a spooky chiller. The film's subtitle proves bitterly ironic: Carter and his underachieving cohorts have seldom given cultists less to believe.