Robert De Niro continues his long slide into mediocrity with yet another charmless psycho-thriller. The once great Mr D plays troubled father David Callaway, who relocates with daughter Emily (Dakota Fanning) to a rambling country house after the suicide of her beloved mom. With its leafy locations and spooky children, Hide And Seek has the folksy-gothic feel of M Night Shyamalan - right down to a final twist that doesn't make a scat of sense.
There's some fun to be had in playing spot-the-cliché. Everything in Hide And Seek is cribbed from better movies: the woods have a foreboding look, the neighbours are uncomfortably eager to please, the sheriff doesn't trust out-of-towners, even the estate agent has shifty weasel eyes. When Emily acquires an imaginary friend and starts mutilating her dolls, any sane dad would pack her off to a psychologist. But guess what? David is a psychologist and he's determined to cure his daughter alone.
"DE NIRO LOOKS LIKE A FRESHLY PUNCHED MOOSE"
De Niro's performance here is lazy even by his own declining standards. He freewheels through the film with a fixed grimace and the confused demeanour of a freshly punched moose. Dakota Fanning, with her spooky eyes and Wednesday Addams attitude, has little trouble acting him off the screen.
Director John Polson, whose last film was the wretched Swimfan, builds suspense by yelling "Boo!" as often as he can ("Boo! no, it's just the cat." "Boo! no, it's just the kettle") until the whole thing collapses into silliness. Tolerable as a date movie, unless your date likes movies.