An old Leiber-Stoller classic made popular by Peggy Lee comes to mind as the credits roll on NBC’s four-hour version of “Rosemary’s Baby”: “Is that all there is?”
Airing in a pair of two-hour installments Sunday and Thursday at 9 p.m., the miniseries is not a strict remake of the Academy Award-winning 1968 Roman Polanski film but a looser adaptation of the best-selling Ira Levin novel on which it was based.
Even with actors who have done good work elsewhere, this “Baby” is a curiously lifeless “reimagining” with a thoroughly modern polish that actually makes the story harder to believe and lands well short of its target of generating atmospheric chills. The film offers up a pretty-to-look-at but sluggish slog through a shockingly mild descent into madness. It could use a lot more devilish charm or bona fide scariness.
In this take, the action moves from New York City to Paris as Rosemary (Zoe Saldana) and Guy (Patrick J. Adams) Woodhouse relocate for Guy’s new teaching assignment at the Sorbonne. The Woodhouses are excited for the fresh start after Rosemary suffers a miscarriage. Guy hopes to finish his long-in-coming novel, and Rosemary is happy to spend time with her friend Julie (Christina Cole) and take cooking classes.
After an elegant older couple, Roman (Jason Isaacs) and Margaux Castevet (Carole Bouquet), take a suspiciously generous interest in them, the Woodhouses move into a mysterious building, and just about everything starts going their way: Rosemary gets pregnant, Guy finishes his novel, Rosemary learns to cook fancy French chicken — and even finds a use for those pesky organs. Why, it’s almost like they made a deal with the devil.
Except the action itself is so mundane — even a hallucinogenic trip of an orgy is a woozy yawn — and the Woodhouses so easily accepting of all of their good fortune that nothing feels particularly foreboding, no matter how much the soundtrack tries to convince us otherwise with its drones and eruptions.
The Paris setting, the elegant architecture, the scenes suffused in gauzy golds and menacing reds are not matched by anything as interesting in the story as Rosemary begins — very late in the game — to suspect that the Castevets are part of a Satanic coven that wants to snatch her unborn child for a ritual sacrifice, which would make anybody crazy.
Except she doesn’t really seem crazy, partly because we know she’s onto something and partly because for most of the film Saldana simply acts pained and confused as her unborn child moves uneasily inside her. Adams, so charming on “Suits,” is mostly a blank, even when it’s clear that he’s in cahoots with the coven. Isaacs attempts to inject Roman with a malevolent twinkle, but there’s only so much that coded threats and tight smiles can do to engender fright.
If viewers are meant to be reminded of the evils within or to be wary of the seductive power of making Faustian bargains as a shortcut to success, well, here’s a tip: Resist the temptation to see this “Baby.”