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There's a big difference between knowing the "how" of a situation and the "why," which is the case in Stir of Echoes, which begins as somewhat of a ghost story and wraps as a murder mystery. As with an unrelated earlier flick of this past summer, once again there is a kidlet who talks to ghosts. A more intriguing bit of background about the boy's talents seems to have been left in the original novel by Richard Matheson. It's hinted at in writer/director David Koepp's screenplay, but those hints are left tantalizingly dangling and, as always, we don't compare to the Source Material. But we're pretty well intrigued . . .
Stir of Echoes drops us smack in the middle of a nice, law abiding blue collar Chicago neighborhood. It is the story of PhoneCo. lineman Tom Witsky (Kevin Bacon), his wife Maggie (Kathryn Erbe) and 7 year old son, Jake (Zachary David Cope). Also in the picture is Maggie's sister Lisa (Illeana Douglas), whom Tom, to put it kindly, tolerates. One night at a party, Tom allows Lisa to hypnotize him knowing that he'll probably be made to prance around like a chicken. That may have been the case but, when all is done, Tom comes away a different person. He is tormented at random by dreadful and horrible images -- there's no slice 'n' dice in this flick but a pair of gruesome fast cuts will make you reel in shock -- and becomes prescient, sensing things as they are happening or are about to happen. While these blasts of images seem to foretell the future, they don't provide enough information to clue him in on what he can do about it. Net result? Tom goes, to all intents and appearances, crackers.
They should have seen it coming -- it runs in the family.
The grownups thought kidlet Jake had an "imaginary" friend named Samantha. But she passes information to Jake that no one could know. That leads to some very hairy moments when it turns out that Samantha was real, a neighborhood kid who disappeared some months before. Jake's got some other abilities, too. He seems to be "connected," seemingly at random, to strangers. He is on a first name basis with people he has never met and one of them, one of Chicago's finest, clues Maggie in to an entire world of "openers," people with connections to the "other side". Jake is one. So, now, is Tom. And damn if Cranky didn't want to know more about this aspect of the story, but that is not to be.
The main story of this movie is the total crackup of this lineman for the county and his link to the girl who disappeared months before. How it affects his life and threatens his family. David Koepp's script dangles enough clues in front of you that, with minor effort, you'll see most of the solution to the mystery coming a ways off. As I wrote earlier, knowing the how doesn't mean you'll know the why. Stir of Echoes has enough depth that you'll still be interested in discovering the details that you haven't copped to earlier. Kevin Bacon's Tom cracks up beautifully, but Cranky found himself aware that there was just too much of it, almost as if the story stopped so we could watch the actor act. Luckily, Kathryn Erbe's Maggie keeps everything on an even keel as we watch how her loving wife deals with the collapse of everything she's known.
On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Stir of Echoes, he would have paid...
A little less than dateflick level. Overall, Cranky liked Stir of Echoes, enough to reco a theater ticket though you won't feel cheated if you wait for pay per view.
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