Old X factor missing from latest 'X-Files' film

David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson star in "The X-Files: I Want to Believe." (Diya Pera / 20th Century Fox)
David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson star in "The X-Files: I Want to Believe." (Diya Pera / 20th Century Fox)

The new "X-Files" movie? Not exactly "out there."

The truth is they've taken the spooky, paranormal-minded TV show (1993-2002) and drained much of the "super" right out of the supernatural.

Whatever creator Chris Carter wanted to say in "The X-Files: I Want to Believe" about science, faith and morality, all he delivered is a solid (if far-fetched) police procedural, a movie that benefits from — but doesn't make very good use of — the history and the chemistry between its stars, David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson.

Scully (Anderson) has returned to medicine, permanently. But an FBI agent has gone missing and the bureau, in the person of Agent Dakota Whitney (Amanda Peet) needs help. There's this priest, who seems to have psychic clues. Scully must deliver the reclusive Mulder (David Duchovny) to his old employers, his tormentors. Mulder can win the psychic's confidence. But he can't get involved in a snowy West Virginia missing person's case without getting in over his head.

The leads bicker. For every Scully "That's not my life anymore," there's a Mulder "Let's just say I want to believe." Which, of course, was the whole point of the TV show and 1998 movie. He believes in paranormal weirdness. She's scientific, rational, a skeptic.

But Scully has a very sick patient, a little boy. She works for a Catholic hospital. She wants to grab at a miracle, or at least keep the bottom-line-oriented priest in charge from kicking the kid into a hospice.

Our psychic friend keeps wandering the snowscape, pointing to things and experiencing stigmata. Mulder, using a combination of cop logic, reason and intuition, pieces things together, spouting off his usual blitz of statistics on phenomena that he so fervently wants to believe in.

And unseen to the Feds, the bad guys, Russians, are making like "Silence of the Lambs."

Carter keeps the villains all but faceless. And he does clever things in the editing as he lets us in on the gory details of what is going on with these missing people.

But what sells this "X-Files," to fans especially, is the reteaming of Anderson and Duchovny. Fans don't care that 15 years into their relationship, with hints of intimacies known and unknown, they still call each other by their last names, that they use those last names, ad nauseum, in every conversation.

All fans want is the conspiracy, the "But that's impossible" weirdness and those little electronic pings that were the musical signature of the most popular paranormal show since "The Twilight Zone." Unfortunately, in "I Want to Believe," the pings are the spookiest thing in here. And out there.