It's easy to forget that The X-Files was at one point a great television show: The series' drift into obsolescence was so painfully prolonged that the patience of even the most diehard fans had been exhausted by the end of its nine-year run. And if you've forgotten how good the show once was, the new feature film isn't going to remind you: There's absolutely nothing in I Want to Believe that even hints at The X-Files' one-time quality. If I had never seen the TV show, and had to guess based on this movie what the series had been like, I'd conclude that it must've been just another sordid, dimly lit cop drama—the type of show that makes women afraid to drive home alone and doesn't hesitate to lop the breasts off a hooker or slap stigmata on a six-year-old.
I Want to Believe is a transparent attempt to capitalize on the brand, without doing any of the imaginative work that made the show interesting. There are no aliens. There's no government conspiracy. There aren't even any rad monsters, genetic anomalies, or clever metanods to the show's history: There's only a pedophile priest, a kidnapping ring that abducts women and keeps them in dog cages, and a faint, sad attempt to erect some vestiges of the old sexual tension between former partners Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) and Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson).
Team Fox 'n' Dana is pulled out of retirement when young FBI agent Amanda Peet (who sounds here as though she's reading her lines for the first time, and that the fundamentals of phonetics are slightly beyond her) decides she needs Mulder's help. She's trying to track down an agent who was recently kidnapped, and her only leads so far have been provided by a former priest who might be a psychic, and is certainly a pedophile. The priest lives in the laziest excuse for an ominous backdrop ever (an apartment complex populated with convicted sex offenders) and cries blood-tears when he's really upset—predictably, Mulder believes in pervo's psychic abilities, and Scully doesn't, and Scully's all, "Nag, nag, you're never going to find your sister," and Mulder's like, "Bitch, would it kill you to smile once in a while?"
There's a flash or two of the old X-Files audacity here—an underdeveloped body-splicing storyline could've gone somewhere genuinely grotesque and interesting—but it's lost in a gloomily shot muddle of aesthetically and intellectually misguided plot points. (An implied causal relationship between molestation and homosexuality; a sidebar in which Dr. Scully tries to save a sick kid against the wishes of the priest at the hospital where she works.)
If you're feeling nostalgic for the series, do yourself a favor and rent a few seasons of The X-Files on DVD: If you still have any fond feelings toward the franchise, it's unlikely that they'll survive the first 10 minutes of this film.