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Movie Review

Bless the Child

MPAA Rating: R for violence, drug content and brief language

Reviewed by: Brad D. Francis

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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Mature Teen to Adult
1 hr. 50 min.
Year of Release:
USA Release:
August 11, 2000 (wide)
Relevant issues
Kim Basinger and Holliston Coleman in “Bless the Child”

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Featuring: Kim Basinger, Rufus Sewell, Angela Bettis, Jimmy Smits, Christina Ricci
Director: Chuck Russell
Producer: Mace Neufeld
Distributor: Paramount Pictures

Refreshing. That’s my initial response after coming out of the theater from seeing “Bless the Child”. It was refreshing to see issues such as spiritual warfare, the existence and power of Satan and Christianity in general treated on screen with respect, and even a large degree of accuracy.

“Bless the Child” centers in on Maggie O’Connor (Kim Basinger) a divorcee who is forced to become the caretaker for her druggie sister’s newborn baby, Cody (played with talent at age six by Holliston Coleman). Maggie soon realizes that her niece is special, and the diagnosis made is relatively mild autism. But there’s definitely something more than that. Cody begins to exhibit supernatural powers, from spinning a plate without touching it to resurrecting a dead bird.

Meanwhile, there’s a child killing spree going on in New York City (where the bulk of the movie takes place) and FBI Special Agent John Travis (Jimmy Smits, showing his acting ability as he goes from playing an NYPD officer to playing an FBI agent that merely works with the NYPD) has been called in on the case. He identifies various cult symbols and realizes that it all comes down the night before Easter. He gets acquainted with Maggie when her “recovered” sister shows up with her new husband and takes Cody away. It becomes evident that all the murdered children were simply an attempt to find Cody (and a reference is made to all the children Herod had slaughtered while looking for baby Jesus).

Christina Ricci in “Bless the Child”
Christina Ricci in “Bless the Child”

This is an exciting movie with relatively mild language (for an R-rated film), no sex or nudity, but an abundance of violence. People are killed many ways, from decapitation to shooting. [ reports “several lethal and bloody/gory acts (people shot to death, another one stabbed in both eyes with knitting needles, a person set on fire, a person is decapitated, off screen murders of children)”] In addition, drug use is prominent although never in a positive light.

The best thing I found in the movie was its portrayal of spiritual warfare as real and relevant. Angels help the good guys, and we sometimes get a view of demons around the bad. At one point, people in the theater actually applauded as little Cory withstands the demonic temptation of the main villain, Eric (Rufus Sewell), in a scene purposefully reminiscent of Jesus’ wilderness temptation.

I enjoyed this movie. I found it exciting, and I just hope the moviegoers realize that the angelic and demonic forces clashing here is very real. Both sides are presented with real power, but the writers here know who is more powerful as much as we do. Unless the violence and language dissuades you, I recommend “Bless the Child” as a good thriller. A refreshing thriller.

Viewer Comments
…I don’t believe any thriller movie including images of murder and other explicit acts of violence can be “refreshing” or pleasing to a God that is Holy and pure. Even if it portrays the real issue of spiritual warfare effectively, it obviously does so in a manner that is anything, but edifying. The fact that the movie has relatively mild language and no sex or nudity does not somehow make it more acceptable. I believe spiritual warfare is very real and we all need to be aware of that. I believe Satan is waging a war and that we should be ever cautious. Scripture tells us he is as a lion waiting to attack—he will take any opportunity to “get to” christians and non-christians alike.

Could it be that this movie is another of Satan’s clever strategies to subtley “get to us”? Could it be that he is making the movie somehow acceptable to bible believing Christians because it addresses real spiritual matters—even though it shows those issues in such a violent way. I was recommended your Web site as a christian site. I wonder what signals we are sending our non-christians brothers and sisters by calling movies such as this “refreshing” and “exciting”. I can’t believe the review was concluded with the following comment: “Unless the violence and language dissuades you, I recommend Bless the Child as a good thriller. A refreshing thriller.” Shouldn’t the violence and language dissuade us as Christians? Shouldn’t we be filling our minds with thoughts and images that are pure, Holy and pleasing to God?? The answer, of course, is YES, YES, YES!!!…
—Fiona, age 25
Although I enjoyed the movie as it seemed to be a battle between Christianity (the Catholic church) and Satanism, I read the book afterwards and I want your viewers to know that the book was filled with occult practices throughout practiced by all the main characters and the eventual deliverance is not attributed to God or Jesus Christ, but to the love between Maggie and the child. Even the child’s importance goes back to Egyptian mythology. There is transcendental meditation, American Indian chants, reincarnation big time, channeling, Voodoo, etc. Jesus Christ is not the reason for the victory, but “good” is the reason for the victory over evil and Satan and witchcraft is given phenomenal power. I am a Christian counselor so I could wade through this stuff without falling for it, but woe to the teenager or young person who gets caught up in this mysticism which is not Christian.
—Patricia Williams, LCSW, age 55
The movie is very good—go see it.
—Curtis Mann, age 65
I like the movie especially for exposing the New Age cult. Doing good things, “helping” people to realise their inner potential, yet they are actually tapping from the power of the evil one. Another thing is love being shown by Cody, especially the part where she hugged the man who was burnt, and told him the truth, that God did not forget about him. I would recommend this show, unless you have a weak heart. My Ratings: [3½/4]
—Henry, age 24
This movie had such a positive message! I was absolutely thrilled with it and encourage everyone to see it. It reminded me of a Frank Peretti book and really helped me see the world in a different light. Great movie!!! My Ratings: [4/4]
—Christine Nemeti, age 22
I took mom to see this movie not knowing much about it except Kim Bassinger and Jimmy Smitt were in it. We were pleasantly surprised. The Christian battle between good and evil was portrayed well. Right on point. Some violence, but mom even got past that and said she liked it. Mom is even more offended with the movies today then I am of course. New generations New acceptances, but I would recommend it to all my Christian friends and did just that by coming home and getting on the internet and emailing lots of them to tell them I liked the movie. See it judge for yourself. I felt good when I left that the good guys won for a change. A new daughter of God. My Ratings: [4/4½]
—Shelby, age 60
As I sat watching the movie “Bless this Child”, I was amused and concerned about the irony in that the new age movement connected Eric Stark, a man obviously connected with the devil and demonic factors of this world, could so easily move people away from their heavenly father. In no way was Satanism ever glorified or shown in a positive light. Praise the Lord for that. I found it to be the best-yet movie out of Hollywood in the subject of spiritual warfare. Also portrayed perfectly was the fact of who won in the end… the Christians, just as it will be at the end of times. My Ratings: [3/4½]
—Julie, age 18
We went to the movie based on a recommendation from this site, therefore I feel compelled to write this. The movie is bad. It has no redeeming qualities, unless you consider glorification of the Roman Catholic Church as a virtue. It includes a strange juxtaposition of morality and evil that is supposedly solved through the prayers and efforts of rosary toting “christians” and the typical mystical events to which our world is growing accustomed. If you’re going to see Kim Basinger, she looks drawn and strung out. My Ratings: [2/2]
—Laurie Clark, age 50
“Bless the Child” is a truly remarkable look at Spiritual Warfare in the modern world. Kim Basinger does a good job, as is expected. To me, Rufus Sewell [He played Erik, the bad guy] should be commended on his performance of a truly evil character. I was totally amazed at the focus on God. I respect the film-makers for that. My friend who I went to the movie with compared it to “The Ninth Gate.” He said the difference was that in “Bless the Child” the movie built up to a climax that delivered, where as “Ninth Gate” built up to eventually, nothing! Also, there are only 6 bad words in the entire film! 2 “F”, 2 “S”, and 2 “fatherless children” I didn’t hear one single character take the Lord’s name in vain. That is so refreshing and wasn’t really expected. There is some violence, and some scary footage of demonic angels and rats, as well as a shot of Satan being formed by the rats. I wasn’t offended in the least by any of this. And I don’t think many other Christians will be either. I really enjoyed myself. My Ratings: [3½/4]
—Jason Eaken, age 16
“Bless the Child” should be praised for depicting satanism in an ugly fashion. However, this ugly depiction is one of the reasons I can’t recommend this movie as entertaiment or for Christians. “Bless the Child” seems to wallow in its own ugliness as we get scenes in which we get Eric Stark talking about satanism for long periods at a time and Rufus Sewell gives the best performance in the movie and so it can be argued that although what he says is wrong he says it so convincingly that those who are weak in faith might actually start believeing what he says is true. In fact, his speeches which are quite disturbing and in my opinion blasphemous could possibly be edited together to make a satanism recruiting film. There are also scenes in which the child is subjected to this ugliness which disturbed me even more especially in the scenes involving the homeless man and a scene where stark puts her on a ledge and tells her to jump if she has faith in God. Scenes like that really upset me.

True angels appear to help Bassinger and the little girl escape danger, but they seem more governed by the needs of the plot rather than by God since they show up when key characters need to escape, but not when the plot dictates that the little girl needs to be kidnapped. In the finale people gather to pray for strength to fight the evil forces which is noble.

However, in the finale the angels show and act mostly as a distraction device so that the cops can come busting in with their tear gas and bullets to save the day. In the finale the angels appear as cliche balls of light while the demons are given full metamorpazation and the reason I’m afraid is that filmmakers probably feel that satanic images sell better than heavenly images. The film is so ugly that I didn’t notice some of its problems until afterwards because I was too busy being disturbed. Would real life cops shrug off a kidnapping so easily? I don’t think so.

The satanists look like cliche spiked haired, body pierced freaks, unlike the satanist in Rosemary’s Baby who appeared like everyday people you would meet on the street thus making them look like cliches. Basinger’s performance is so-so at best. The film contains some brief language and some rather hideous violence (knitting needles jammed into eyes, a decapitation, child murders etc.) made all the more hideous by the ugly tone of the film, and drug use. “Bless the Child” contains some good scares and interesting scenes, but is an ugly movie that I didn’t enjoy subjecting myself to. My Ratings: [2/2½]
—Andrew, age 24
Well, you “good christians” see it your way again… as you think everyone “should” One review said this wasn’t christian based? My money is on a “born again producing, one writing, and one directing… how else could you explain the sermonizing, the totally “morally self-rightious” tone in the drivel that passes for dialogue? Each and every actor does a very good impression of Lot’s wife… flavorless blocks of salt-substitute. This I would owe to the director’s inability to get any kind of honest emotion or even know one. After all, we can’t get too excited here because while we are trying to reach those poor lost souls by stooping to their level [wrap our sermon in their beloved horror movies] we don’t want to get our good clean godly hands too dirty with a real life… give us superstitious fear and self serving fantasy as a way of life anyday. [I can just see the committee that got together to bring this christian message to the screen: Let’s draw them in with those gory pics in the trailers and when they get in the theaters they will actually get to see what christians believe in!]… My Ratings: [2/1]
—bhurd, age 45, non-Christian
This movie is by far the best attempt by Hollywood (that I’ve seen) to accurately portray biblical spiritual struggle. God is shown as a positive entity, while Satan is shown as, well, Satanic and evil. My only complaint is that Satan is portrayed as only evil and dark and horrid, whereas the Bible says that to the world he masquerades as an angel of light. Other than that, this movie was tops. I would only give it a 4½ because some effects weren’t done that well… plot was a perfect 5! My Ratings: [3½/4½]
—Doug, age 19
…better than what I suspected. Even though the movie wasn’t Christian based, it had it’s good points. For example when when the girl gave the homeless guy a hug and said, “He still cares.” I was touch by that statement. Also at the very end of the movie when Cody healed her “Mam.” I thought that it was awesome. I think that the best memorable part of the movie was when the priest said, “Satan’s greatest victory was when he convinced us he doesn’t exist.” If the devil is not real then people would believe the same of our Lord Jesus. Anyways I am a Christian myself, and I believe that this movie is good for Christian’s (mature audience) and non-Christian’s, because the message is positive and “Bless the Child,” will open up a lot of discussions about God and Satan. Overall, it’s all good. My Ratings: [3/5]
—Vince Chao, age 21
I was pleasantly suprised by this movie. It was not at all what I expected. Profanity was minimal, violence was not overly graphic by todays standards. No sexual content. The movie pits good against evil and doesn’t portray Christianity in a negative light at all. The basic premise of this movie is that God and Satan do exist and that we are constantly in a spiritual battle. The bad guy refers to Satan as his lord. He is searching for a “special child.” This child was sent by God to lead many people to Him. He has given her healing and other powers. The bad guy wants to either turn this child to Satan or destroy her. There are many biblical references and parallels to the life of Christ. One of the best is by a priest who says, “Satan’s greatest victory is that he has convinced people that he doesn’t exist.” The Bible teaches us that Satan and Demons do exist and that we are battling them every day. The Bible also teaches us that “He who is in us is greater than he who is in the world.”—1 John 4:4 This movie makes that point clear. This movie provides ample opportunity to open doors for lots of discussion. It touches on some controversial subjects and deals with them in a fairly straight forward manner. The violence may be a little strong for pre-teens. I don’t recall more than 3 or 4 uses of profanity. I would recommend this movie to just about anyone. Especially those interested in spiritual matters. My Ratings: [3/4]
—Greg Hood, age 35
I was really impressed with this movie. Not really for the depth of the plot, or the effects (which were bad). And the violence was too much. But this movie was great because of the accurate portrayal of God and His power. Cody truly acted like an incredibly blessed child. Not quite Christ, as the symbolism suggested, but very Christ-like. Tempted at every turn, she responded with wisdom, love, and courage far beyond her age. And in the conclusion, God moves with subtle, but intense power. I’d say the script was brilliant. The acting was good too, especially the girl who played Cody. If you can handle a couple of scenes of graphic violence (used to convey to a desensitized audience the evil of the satanic cult), WATCH THIS MOVIE! My Ratings: [4/2½]
—Evan Shanks, age 18
This was a terrible movie! It was supposed to be scary, but was laughable. I’m really suprised that the actors who were in this did the movie. They pulled out several of the old cliches which didn’t work here. My advise is to save your money. My Ratings: [2/1½]
—Louis, age 39
The synopsis above pretty much describes the plot. This is an interesting film, not at all boring, and the violence is actually fairly tame by contemporary standards. Definitely not gratuitous gore, and no lingering shots over the more gross moments. In so far as its Christian content, don’t expect it to be scripturally sound because it really, at heart, isn’t. This film is more a depiction of the forces of Christianity (i.e., nuns, priests, angels… as well as the NYPD and the FBI) as heroes dedicated to a real struggle against Satan. Much, much is made of the genuine existance of Satan (one character says, “Satan’s greatest victory was when he convinced us he didn’t exist”) as well as the love and attention God holds for all of us. There are some genuinely moving depictions of faith and prayer… even the FBI agent prays for God’s help in the investigation… and a strong statement is made that there are indeed Angels here on Earth, assisting us in our struggles. But to be sure, this is also Hollywood; it’s an action movie; there are car chases, beatings, some horror elements, more than a little violence, a few references to hard drug use and things that go bump in the night. There is no nudity or anything remotely sexual; I think the “f” word surfaced just once. Don’t go expecting to find a filmed version of the Gospel According to Luke; you will find, though, Christians and the Church given respectful treatment, even some glorification as heroic. After so many films that equivocate and dillute the thing we know, that God Rules, I found it refreshing to be at last on the side of a really gutsy bunch of “good guys.” Think of it as a tale similar to those of the Middle Ages, where brave Chrstian knights did real combat with the Devil and his demons; we don’t condemn those tales for being “unscriptual,” so we should probably reserve that judgment, here, and at least be merciful to the producers for a decent effort. My Ratings: [4/4]
—John Pyle, age 48
Movie Critics
…the strong religious message should encourage Christians and present opportunities for discussion…
—Preview Family Movie and TV Review
…almost bad enough to become a cult classic. No pun intended…
—Christopher Null,
…several lethal and bloody/gory acts (people shot to death, another one stabbed in both eyes with knitting needles, a person set on fire, a person is decapitated, off screen murders of children)…