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poster-xfiles2There’s an old joke about David Duchovny. In it he goes to a psychic to get his fortune read.

“I have good news and bad news for you” she says, peering into her crystal ball. “Which would you like first?”

“Give me the good news…” he says, breathlessly.

“Well… you will have a long career in movies.”

“Really! That’s great,” he says. “What’s the bad news?”

“Every successful movie you appear in will have the letter “X” in the title.”

And so we have X-Files: I Want to Believe after a ten year big screen Duchovny drought that included films like House of D, Connie and Carla, Trust the Man and many other movies you haven’t heard of.

Set in a bleak and snowy West Virginia the story begins when a female FBI agent is abducted. After a convicted pedophile priest named Father Joe (Billy Connolly) has visions related to the agent’s disappearance the retired and reclusive Fox Mulder (Duchovny) is called in to help with the case. Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) his former FBI partner, now his partner in life, has also left the agency and is working as a doctor. She grudgingly becomes involved in the missing persons case despite endlessly reminding Mulder that she’s “done chasing demons in the dark.” At the same time she becomes emotionally involved with a young patient who can only be saved with a radical, invasive procedure. When the psychic gives her a veiled, opaque message she wavers between trusting her head and her heart.

On The X-Files television show, which ran for 202 one-hour episodes from 1993 to 2002, FBI Agents Mulder and Scully—one a believer the other a skeptic—investigated all manner of strange and supernatural phenomenon. No paranormal plotline was too far out for the brooding duo. They looked into the man-eating Jersey Devil, extraterrestrial serums and mutated killer cockroaches. The show was ominous and dark, but it had imagination, a trait sadly lacking from X-Files: I Want to Believe. Co-writer and director Chris Carter seems to have eliminated the “para” from the show and emphasized the “normal.”

The film is a run-of-the-mill detective story with a psychic angle tacked on. Cardboard characters—former Pimp My Ride host Xzibit     as Agent Mosley Drummy is direct from the angry cop section at Central Casting—repetitive dialogue and a non-climax make I Want to Believe a lackluster affair.

Duchovny and Anderson bring little of the sexual tension that propelled their relationship on the TV series. He has a few of the trademark Mulder one-liners—and there is a good gag that suggests George W. might be an alien—but Anderson’s role has been significantly reduced. She’s a doctor who searches for ways to treat her patients on Google and spends much of the movie chanting, “That’s not my life anymore.”

A big screen adaptation of a television show should improve on the small screen efforts, but instead series creator Chris Carter offers up a talky nonstarter that barely measures up to the source material. Even a casual X-Files fan could name any number of episodes far superior than this unnecessary remounting.

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