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Movie review of Frequency

"Frequency" is "The Sixth Sense," all at sixes and sevens.

Whereas "The Sixth Sense" was told with elegantly deceptive simplicity, "Frequency" travels in overload mode. Yet it's well-navigated and ultimately moving. Not since "Field of Dreams" has baseball been such a strong metaphor for father/son bonding.

Only in this case, the father is dead.

When first seen, John Sullivan (Jim Caviezel of "The Thin Red Line") is a 36-year-old New York City cop who's haunted by memories of his father, a New York City fireman who died in an inferno three decades earlier.

John is devoted to his widowed mother, a hard-working nurse, but has trouble making commitments. Not that's he's a momma's boy; his father, by all accounts a sensitive macho man, would never have tolerated that. If fact, all of John's memories of poppa Frank (Dennis Quaid) are positive. They happily played ball together, and Frank taught John how to ride a bicycle, never removing his own hands from the bike until he was certain John felt secure.

Courtesy of his father's mysteriously still-working ham radio and with the blessing of aurora borealis lightstorms, father and son are able to communicate. In fact, poppa Frank appears just as he was 30 years ago, and he and son John combine their wits to prevent all sorts of wrongdoings.

The plot goes off in too many different directions, incorporating a Richard Speck-type murderer who preys on nurses (yep, just like John's mom/Frank's wife). But sports fans will cheer the way the screenplay manages to bring even the '69 Mets/Orioles World Series game into the mystery. (In case you're wondering, the good guys are definitely Mets fans.)

Mr. Quaid performs with plentiful appeal and unabrasive authority. Mr. Caviezel's role requires a more anguished display of emotion, which he reveals effectively, without sabotaging the character's strength. Elizabeth Mitchell brings resourceful shading to what could have been a traditional wife/mother role, but Shawn Doyle is too palpably a culprit, as the guy who hates nurses.

After the misstep of "Fallen," "Frequency" brings director Gregory Hoblit back to the ranks he enjoyed with "Primal Fear." He's good with actors and knows how to wring each scene for maximum suspense. "Frequency" bites off more story than the audience can comfortably digest, but Mr. Hoblit and his cast often make it worth the effort.

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