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RED herrings!

'Ring' Around the Banal

by Jeremy Mathews  

"The Ring Two"
Dream Works Pictures
Directed by Hideo Nakata
Screenplay by Ehren Kruger, based on the novel Ringu by Kji Suzuki and the 1998 film "Ringu," screenplay by Hiroshi Takahashi
Produced by Laurie MacDonald and Walter F. Parkes
Starring Naomi Watts, David Dorfman, Simon Baker, Elizabeth Perkins, Gary Cole, Sissy Spacek, Ryan Merriman, Emily VanCamp, Kelly Overton, James Lesure and Kelly Stables
Rated PG-13

(out of four)

Perhaps if I ever felt genuinely frightened while watching "The Ring Two" I would forgive it its lagging, nonsensical plot. But it is a film made from a combination of routine bores and ridiculous twists. It's as if the film was written on fly paper, and all the ideas thrown out in brainstorming sessions stuck all the way to the final cut.

Naomi Watts returns to the role of Rachel Keller, who has gone from being a big-city journalist to working in the small town of Astoria, Wash. with her son Aidan (David Dorfman) in the hopes of getting away from the bad memories of 2002's "The Ring." In the opening sequence, a teenager learns the hard way not to procrastinate copying a video tape and showing it to someone else before seven days are up and he dies. Unfortunately, his death takes place in Astoria, and Rachel shudders when she hears about the mysterious death.

The tape, as "The Ring" taught us, is the telekinetic work of an evil psychic girl named Samara. Seeing that passing the tape along is causing nothing but trouble and a rise in JVC stock, Rachel burns one copy of the tape to shield the experimental video from Astoria's eyes. But this only inspires Samara to invade Rachel and Aidan's lives. It's admirable that the film ditches the video watching hook after the first scene this time around, but unfortunately comes up with no story to replace it.

Samara had a cruel childhood, so is sympathetic, but was apparently evil anyway, so it's OK if the bitch is trapped in a well. Events in this film, however, suggest that Samara was actually possessed herself, and therefore not the possessor, but this detail goes ignored. It's not as perplexing as the deer, though. Japanese director Hideo Nakata, who made the film on which "The Ring" was based, came to Hollywood to direct this sequel, but there's still a very generic feel. to it While any credit for the film's occasional tense moments must go to Nakata, the special effects seem to come out of the first film, with little effort to do anything new and much effort to insert whatever action sequence can fill in story gaps.

While it might not one-up the unintentionally hilarious horse chase from the first "Ring," there's another "When Animals Attack" moment when some angry CG deer charge at and demolish Rachel's car, then decide to stand around and look creepy. Thinking back on the scene after later plot twists, it doesn't even make sense that the deer would attack Rachel and Aidan. Then again, the animals didn't hurt them, so I guess we can assume that they simply don't like automobiles. Maybe the antlers in the basement of the farm Samara grew up on are supposed to tell us something. But the first movie only mentioned horses.

I could sarcastically describe plot elements for paragraphs upon paragraphs and still not make any sense out of all this garbage. It's pretty obvious, through dialogue that screams foreshadowing and investigative scenes that spell it out, how the conflict will end. I can believe Watts as the loving mother who doesn't know what to do when her son apparently becomes possessed, and Dorfman is also strong as the detached, confused child. But they can only be believed for so long in a convoluted horror story that doesn't let their characters come through.

The climactic scene, if you can call it that, is utterly ridiculous and lacking in any suspense. Trying to raise tension, the best the filmmakers can do is have Watts look behind her for what feels like 10 minutes until she can clearly see what's there and start hurrying. Tip to people fighting telepathic ghosts in alternate realities: Don't dilly dally.

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