Dr. Fonda, an unconventional psychologist, is consulted to assist on the case of a troubled young genius, Teddy. Upon meeting the boy in a high-security facility, under the watchful eyes of a roomful of experts, Fonda is surprised to discover the advanced nature of Teddy's intelligence. However, it is only as their session progresses that he uncovers how desperate and dangerous this situation really is...
Directed by: Alex Haughey
, Brian Vidal
. Starring: Richard Neil
, Savannah Liles
, Jolene Andersen
, Emilio Palame
, David Linski
, Harvey Q. Johnson
, Aral Gribble
, Avery Barkdull
, Trevor Castillo
, Penelope Figueroa
, Markus Haskins
, Christina Holder
, Alexandra Matthew
. Music by: Igor Nemirovsky
PRODIGY opens with a series of video clips, intermixed with the opening credits, depicting the early lives of two different little girls. By the end of the credits we see that one girl is bedridden, either by illness or injury, and the other girl has turned into something... menacing.
When the first scene of the movie proper begins, we are in a park near the edge of a pond, and we see a somewhat scholarly-looking man, judging by his tweedy suit and ill kempt hair, playing chess with himself on a picnic table with his briefcase close at hand. We recognize the man from the earlier video clips as the probable father of the bedridden girl.
A woman in an ill fitting black suit approaches, and after some small talk, we are given to understand that they already know each other before the events of the movie. His name is Fonda; hers is Olivia. Fonda invites Olivia to coffee, but she says they don't have time, glancing at the "confidential" document resting in Fonda's briefcase.
In the next scene, Fonda is having a little difficulty going through a stringent security screen. Once that is sorted out, accompanied by some sort of military director named Birch and a couple of armored security personnel, Fonda is marched through the facility while being given a terse collection of do's and don'ts, mostly don'ts, by a gruff and apparently irritated Birch. Clearly Birch is not pleased by Fonda's presence, although we do not know why.
By virtue of the stringent security and the very rigid and excessive collection of don'ts described by Birch, we develop the understanding that whoever Fonda is here to see is an incredibly dangerous person.
Fonda is ushered into a sort of control room and introduced to the collection of staff working on whatever project this is. There's a technical director, a psychiatrist, a biochemist and so on. And, of course, there's Olivia. In the process of the introductions, we learn that Fonda is a psychologist. Apparently, Fonda is here to evaluate someone at the direct request of Olivia.
Olivia takes Fonda to be introduced to their subject. Just as Olivia and Fonda arrive at the door behind which apparently waits the subject, the door opens and some security personnel exit. They are heavily armored and have apparently delivered the subject to the interview room via a strapped handtruck. Attached to the handtruck is a black restrictive facemask. The view lingers on the truck and mask so that we may contemplate the implied fearful nature of the subject.
Fonda enters the interview room and finds... a freckle-face little redhaired girl. She's fully straitjacketed, chained to a metal chair, and completely bound.
There are a few good things to say about PRODIGY. Unfortunately, there's also a giant raft of things that are not so good.
Conceptually, PRODIGY has an interesting concept. There are several primary elements that contribute to making up a personality. Intelligence, special skills, maturity, knowledge and so on. What if we presuppose a young girl, around 10 to 12 years old, is possessed of both an incredibly high IQ and gifted with supernatural powers (at least telekinesis though perhaps more). What kind of personality would she have? What kind of person would they be? How would society react to such a person? And perhaps most importantly, how dangerous would they be?
Now imagine we take that interesting concept and turn it into a movie that is excessively low-budget and crafted by amateurish hacks across the board. That's PRODIGY.
Clumsy, low-budget movies appear to exude a certain kind of cinematic body odor. Wooden acting, uninspired music, hollow sound design, derivative scripting, cheap props, and so on. You'll find all of this in PRODIGY and more. To keep from working too hard or risking runaway creativity, let's just lift a collection of tropes from other movies. We'll "borrow" from JURASSIC PARK, SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, THE FURY and maybe a little CARRIE (and about 10 dozen other movies about telekinesis...).
Ever since Nedry in JURASSIC PARK, the "technical" person has to be an unlikable, sloppy looking fat guy. And here he is in PRODIGY where his sole function, for the entire movie, is to throw a couple of switches and push a lever back and forth that is clearly a videogame throttle. Probably by Saitek.
How about the whole person-dolly and facemask bit, straight out of SILENCE OF THE LAMBS? It's her HANDS that need to be confined, not her legs. And what's the facemask for? It's supposed to be for biters, and Ellie isn't a biter. Oh, I see. It's a style requirement. Pro forma and all that. Never mind that it doesn't make any sense in this context.
Additionally, the persona exhibited by Ellie is straight out of the Hannibal Lecter stylistic dialogue handbook. After all, she's a crazy super genius. She should talk like one. $1.95 psychoanalysis that "lays bare" her victims "inner selves". The only real difference is that we have a little girl saying the words. Although, to be fair, she does do a pretty good job of it. It's just disappointing that when she has to exhibit the crying, sad little girl persona at the end, the quality of her acting takes a terrible nosedive. This little girl actress does a better job of portraying a monster than she does a... little girl.
And so on.
I gave the movie 5 stars because the base concept was interesting. A 10-year-old super genius with powerful telekinetic abilities would make a pretty good monster. Maturity lags many years behind intelligence and innate skill; what sort of damage would such a creature do before they grew up? What would life be like around a little kid that could give effortless vent to their fits of pique? Sounds like a twilight zone episode, doesn't it? Hint hint...
This movie is a clunker, no doubt. If you're hungry for a little sci-fi or a bit of the paranormal, you might give it a watch but don't expect too much. Some of it is bad enough to make your eyes bleed. In terms of quality, the only positive thing I can say is that usually such movies made in such circumstances are even worse than this one.
Review by S. Soma from the Internet Movie Database.