(director/writer: Chris Carter; screenwriters: Frank Spotnitz/based on the television series; cinematographer: Bill Roe; editor: Richard A. Harris; music: Mark Snow; cast: David Duchovny (Fox Mulder), Gillian Anderson (Dana Scully), Amanda Peet (Dakota Whitney), Billy Connolly (Father Joseph Crissman), Alvin ‘Xzibit’ Joiner (Agent Mosley Drummy), Xantha Radley (Monica Bannan), Janke Dacyshyn (2nd Abductor), Franz Tomczeszyn (1st Abductor), Marco Niccoli (Christian Fearon); Runtime: 104; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producer: Chris Carter/Frank Spotnitz; 20th Century Fox; 2008)

“Muddled and contrived spin off episode from the popular television series.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

The X-File creator Chris Carter and his longtime collaborator Frank Spotnitz respectfully direct (Carter’s feature film debut as director) and cowrite the screenplay for this muddled and contrived spin off episode from the popular television series about the investigation of supernatural activities that ran from 1993-2002, where they performed similar tasks on the boob tube. It’s the second feature film from that series; the first being the underachieving 1998 “X-Files,” directed by Rob Bowman. Though this version is neither bad nor good and would be fine for an episode on television, it’s just too flat, too lackadaisical, too off target to hold up as a feature film of merit. It too much resembles a trashy B-film horror pic to make credible its more interesting morality question it poses: Can God speak to a creepy pedophile?

FBI agents Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) and Dr. Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) are now retired from the force, with Fox disgraced by the FBI and on-the-run and living as a recluse in Scully’s rural cabin after the FBI framed him. Scully, whose Catholic faith has been severely tested, is now a dedicated surgeon in a Catholic hospital called Our Lady of Sorrows. Fox is a cautious believer in the supernatural, while Scully has a more scientific approach and has grave doubts about the paranormal. The lovers are brought back to help the FBI, under the more amenable lead investigator Dakota Whitney (Amanda Peet), who contacts Scully about the strange circumstances over the disappearance of FBI agent Monica Bannan in West Virginia and is in a rush to get to her before time runs out. Scully is reluctant to get involved because she’s too busy trying to save the life of a sweet young boy (Marco Niccoli) with a fatal genetic disease and must do battle with the hospital priest administrator who wants to give up on the boy and send him to a hospice to die since there’s no treatment available (a hamfisted soap opera subplot). While Fox is intrigued to take the case because the FBI decides to pardon him and that the other outsider helping the FBI supposedly has strong psychic powers, which catches his interest. The psychic is a repentant guilt-ridden convicted pedophile priest named Father Joe (Billy Connolly). Fox believes in him more than the others, while the disgraced priest’s psychic abilities are constantly questioned by the dullish and arrogant FBI agent Mosley Drummy (Alvin “Xzibit” Joiner). When Father Joe makes the grisly discovery where there’s a missing man’s limb in the snowy fields in rural West Va., Scully also signs on even though she detests Father Joe and all he stands for and still thinks he might be a fake.

The higher aims of X-Files’ morality debate over stem cell research and if a pedophile psychic can ever be forgiven get bogged down over its sordid body parts horror story and that Fox and Scully have long and tedious conversations about faith and belief while trying to hang onto their ongoing fractured relationship. The police procedural part tries to make a connection to the missing agent and another missing woman in the area with the same rare blood type, but fails to be as exciting as it could be because the film’s mundane plot is not executed in a believable manner. “X-Files” is kept lively by a superbly fetching performance by Connolly and with scenes of grisly discoveries in a wintry rural setting, with fierce barking dogs on the prowl, and with unsavory Russians transporting body parts. But the trademark of the series, the unsettled arguments it has over its healthy skepticism and faith-based beliefs are only treated here with token respect and are not made provocative enough for the viewer to think further about it after leaving the theater.

The X Files: I Want to Believe Poster