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Film review: Birth

Joseph (Danny Huston) tries to romance Anna (Nicole Kidman), but she's haunted by her husband's death.
Joseph (Danny Huston) tries to romance Anna (Nicole Kidman), but she's haunted by her husband's death.
James Bridges, Fine Line Features

To be fair, "Birth" isn't nearly as lurid or exploitative as we might have expected. But that still doesn't make it a good movie.

This is a pretty lousy supposed-supernatural love story that doesn't hold up to any deeper examination. And it's not even that the reincarnation angle is all that outrageous. It's just that so much of "Birth" doesn't seem to have been very well thought out.

The film doesn't go nearly as far in exploring its central concept as it could have, but much of this material is in extremely poor taste. (Though the movie is a far cry from being nearly pornographic, as some protests have claimed.)

Nicole Kidman, sporting a very unflattering short haircut, stars as Anna, a wealthy widow who's still mourning the death of her husband 10 years earlier. Which has made it difficult for her to make a commitment to her current suitor, Joseph (Danny Huston).

Their upcoming nuptials are even more tenuous after a young boy (Cameron Bright, from "Godsend") shows up claiming to be the reincarnation of her husband Sean — and that he still loves her.

At first, Anna laughs off the boy's claims — until he starts showing up when she least expects it, and starts supplying answers to personal questions that an imposter couldn't possibly know.

From there, things get increasingly ludicrous, with subplots that involve the boy's parents (Ted Levine and Cara Seymour) and friends of Anna's deceased husband (Anne Heche and Peter Stormare).

Despite attempts to make this material somewhat "tasteful," the film is more likely to make you want to take a shower.

Co-screenwriter/director Jonathan Glazer ("Sexy Beast") never really settles on a consistent tone, and Kidman has never been this aloof or uninteresting. It doesn't help that her "love interests" in the film are the wooden Huston and the even more wooden Bright, who's more creepy than anything else.

Why Anna would believe she is in love with Bright's character in the first place is perhaps the biggest mystery of all.

"Birth" is rated R for some crude sex talk and use of crude sexual slang terms, simulated sex, brief male nudity and violence (spanking). Running time: 100 minutes.