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The Return Review

By Shawn McKenzie 11/18/2006

The Synopsis:

When Joanna Mills (Darrian McClanahan) was 11 years old, her widowed dad Ed (Sam Shepard) took her to the carnival somewhere in Texas.  Someone freaked her out at the carnival…causing her to hide under a table while the stranger called her “Sunshine” (she also accidentally cut herself at that carnival.)  Oh yeah…she was also in a bad car accident with Ed sometime before the events at the carnival…but apparently that isn’t as traumatic as some creepy dude at a carnival.  Years later, a 25-year-old Joanna (Sarah Michelle Gellar) has become a successful sales associate for a Midwestern trucking company.  She is constantly on the road though, and she has made sales in every state except Texas, because she thinks that someone will harm her if she goes there.  She also has a tendency to purposely cut herself with a switchblade.  Her boss, Ambrose Miller (Frank Ertl), asks her to pitch their trucking services to Mr. Marlin (Brad Leland), the owner of a company in her hometown of La Salle, Texas.  For some odd reason, she eagerly accepts the assignment, which ticks off her coworker and ex-boyfriend Kurt Setzer (Adam Scott), because he wanted the account.  As she heads for La Salle, she starts having visions, and for some reason, they like playing the chorus of Patsy Cline’s “Sweet Dreams” like a skipped record (it appears everywhere…the radio, a CD, etc.)  She briefly visits her dad and, after effectively selling Marlin on their services, goes out for drinks with her longtime hometown high school friend Michelle (Kate Beahan)…who was actually the one responsible for getting her the meeting with Marlin.  While at the bar, she is attacked and almost raped by Kurt, and is saved by local man named Terry Stahl (Peter O’Brien)…who kicks the crap out of Kurt.  What she doesn’t know about Terry is that he has been considered the recluse of the town since his wife Annie (Erinn Allison) was murdered years ago.  Joanna’s visions continue…including seeing a woman in the mirror that isn’t her…and she is drawn to Terry’s farmhouse, where she thinks that she might get some answers.  Terry isn’t exactly happy about Joanna breaking into his house, but he doesn’t exactly press charges.  After that, she gets more visions, finds out the identity of the man who creeped her out when she was a little girl, and gets into danger.  By the time you see the “twist” end, you have recovered from your movie-watching coma.

The Review:

Oh Buffy…er, Sarah…what has become of your career?  You had so much promise…and then you became delusional.  Why do I say that?  It’s because you thought that you were a star after appearing in the 2002 hit movie Scooby-Doo (a movie I have yet to see…even though I have the DVD), so you decided to leave the role that made you famous…as Buffy Summers on UPN’s “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.”  You severely depressed millions of geeks (like me) who wanted to see the show go for an eighth season.  You fooled yourself again when you appeared in 2004’s The Grudge.  Since then, you have become a footnote (heck…“Buffy” alum Alyson Hannigan has had more success lately on CBS’s “How I Met Your Mother” than you have had in the movies.)  Why then would you allow yourself to play yet another horror movie victim in the extremely boring The Return?

Actually, the PG-13-rated movie isn’t even really a “horror” movie.  It’s more of a supernatural suspense movie (that isn’t very suspenseful.)  The trailer for the movie makes it look like it is a spin-off of The Grudge, but it is far from horrific.  I even had to disappoint my brother when he asked me if it was worth checking out based on what he thought was a creepy trailer.

I’d like to fault Gellar for her performance, but she was just playing the same role she has done since 1997’s I Know What You Did Last Summer and Scream 2.  Since those roles, she has performed as a scream queen in the aforementioned Grudge (and this year’s sequel), along with Addicted (a remake of a 2002 South Korean thriller which is projected to be released in 2008.)  It might be my fault though.  I was so in love with “Buffy” that I tend to think that Gellar has been held back in her movie roles.  Every time I see her play a timid frightened women in one of these movies, I keep thinking, “What would Buffy do in this situation?  In Summer, would she kick the Gorton’s Fisherman Killer in the butt?  Scream’s Ghostface Killer?  That creepy little pale kid from The Grudge?”  I really hope that she can expand her career in to a drama or a comedy, and not one of these not-so-scary “scary” movies.

Why was The Return so boring?  It just dragged on for almost an hour and a half, and when it reached the end, the “twist” angered you, because it was so matter-of-factly.  It made you say, “That’s the end?  I want my money back!”  Much less to say, most people won’t “return” to see this one after they hear about it from the unlucky ones who paid to see it.  As for Gellar, I wouldn’t mind seeing her return to television in an empowering role again.  Do you think that she might be able to match wits with Alan Shore and Denny Crane on ABC’s “Boston Legal” or as a detective on a new Jerry Bruckheimer cop show?  I just hope that she doesn’t return to movies as another ghost victim, because I think that audiences won’t return to see her again otherwise.

Ratings System:


Catch this movie at the theater if you can...

Wait until it comes out on video...

Wait until it plays on HBO, Showtime, Starz, etc...

Demand your money back, even if you saw it for free!

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