'The Rite' done wrong
I've figured it out.
The formula for a box office success must include zombie pirates led by Betty White fighting robotic ninjas that transform into cars under the watchful eye of a vampire Anthony Hopkins (you know, to lend it some credibility), who moonlights as a disgraced priest exorcising computer-generated demons (voiced by arbitrary celebrities) in digital 3D.
Or we could keep it simple and just make another exorcism movie.
"The Rite" is the latter, a forgettable entry in an overplayed genre that's never come close to topping 1973's landmark horror film, "The Exorcist."
The only thing this latest attempt has going for it is Anthony Hopkins ("The Silence of the Lambs"), having a blast in his role as an eccentric priest with some serious inner demons.
The problem is that it's simply not scary. Considering its terrifying concept (just ask any practicing Catholic), "The Rite" fails to deliver.
Directed by Mikael Hafstrom ("1408"), "The Rite" opens promisingly enough with a foreboding sense of creepiness in, appropriately, a funeral home's embalming room. Mortician Michael Kovak (Colin O'Donoghue, Showtime's "The Tudors") is struggling with his identity, whether to follow in his mortician father's (Rutger Hauer, "Blade Runner") footsteps or join the priesthood.
He opts for the latter, but, during seminary school, realizes his faith is questionable. His professor, Fr. Matthew (Toby Jones, "W."), sees potential, however, and sends him to Rome, Italy, to take a course in exorcism.
Still skeptical, Michael is directed by his Roman professor (Ciaran Hinds, HBO's "Rome") to observe renowned exorcist Fr. Lucas Trevant (Hopkins) in action.
At this point, the audience is still with Michael in his skepticism, as "The Rite" retains a sense of ambiguity concerning the validity of exorcisms. After all, the scariest things are what you don't see