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Friday, January 7, 2005; Page WE39

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WHITE NOISE (PG-13, 101 minutes)

When his wife, Anna (Chandra West), is reported missing, Jonathan Rivers (Michael Keaton) waits for word. He gets it, but not in the way he imagined. Dead from a mysterious car accident, she speaks to him from beyond the grave and via static-crackly radio waves. He hears her voice thanks to a friendly stranger (Ian McNeice) who claims to have been receiving many such EVP (electronic voice phenomenon) messages from the departed. Anna, Jonathan begins to realize, is warning him of others whose lives are in imminent danger. And he begins to detect the presence of some sinister, otherworldly forces. Although director Geoffrey Sax gives "White Noise" its share of suspense, he's hampered by Niall Johnson's script, which is often confusing, muddy and ultimately cliche-ridden. (Anna's ghostly transmissions to her husband, in which she constantly tells him to "go now," start to sound like good advice for the audience.) The best part of the movie is the beginning, when the potential for scaring the wits out of you still remains. And it's fascinating to learn a little about EVP, the process through which the dead have supposedly communicated with the living through household recording devices. But the more we learn about this scenario, the more disappointing things get. Maybe those EVP forces were objecting to the casting: Keaton, who is 53, is heavily made up to look younger, so he can seem close in age to actress West, who is nearly 20 years younger. It's not very convincing. Contains scary material and violence. Area theaters.

-- Desson Thomson

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