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Teen Movie Critic - II




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Cuba Gooding Jr. has progressed quite a way since his first major film role. Oh, he was lovable in Jerry Maguire, shouting "Show me da' money!" and eventually earning not only money but also respect as a football player. Later, he was entertaining as the gay boyfriend in As Good as it Gets. Now he's captivating, if not endearing, as an ambitious, idealistic young shrink in Instinct. (I'm willing to forgive and forget his role in the downer What Dreams May Come - even good actors make poor role choices. It's been stricken from the record.)

If all shrinks were as handsome and charming as Gooding, a lot more people would seek psychiatric help. Prozac would be selling by the pound! Gooding's character, Dr. Theo Caulder, is also remarkably adept at talking people out of their neuroses' (or psychoses', or whatever they call it). Yes, he has a promising future as a head- shrinker.

And then he meets his most fascinating - and challenging - patient: Dr. Ethan Powell (Anthony Hopkins), an anthropologist who evidently went insane while living with gorillas in Africa. (In effect, he killed dozens of people and remains violent, as well as silent.)

Brilliant head doctor Theo thinks he can help Powell (and further his career in the process) so he talks his boss into letting him tackle the case. Theo succeeds in getting the deliberately mute Powell to speak - and even relate his entire past story.

I won't spoil the plot for you, but let's just say that animal-rights fans should find themselves quite enamored of Powell by the end of this film. And Powell isn't the only one who reaps a therapeutic benefit from his sessions with Theo.

A subplot chronicles Powell's failed relationship with his family, especially his embittered yet still loving daughter Lynn. Also featured is a sub-subplot (did I just invent a word there?) in which Theo seems mildly interested in Lynn as girlfriend material.

I enjoyed Instinct much more than I anticipated. Gooding wasn't the only worthwhile actor in this film, although he's probably my favorite; I liked all the characters (and the actors who shaped them). Even the violent attack scenes were exciting, well-done, and well-called-for (no unnecessary bloodbaths - the violence lent credence to the film in this case). Perhaps it was a bit too idealistic and message-oriented, but the plot hardly suffered in spite of this flaw. I recommend Instinct as a terrific thriller.

My Rating = Three Stars

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