"What were you expecting, spinning heads? Pea soup?," Father Lucas (Anthony Hopkins) asks of both his young liege (Colin O'Donoghue) and the audience for 'The Rite,' which is no 'Exorcist' and it knows it. Heck, it even pales in comparison to 2010's 'The Last Exorcism' when it comes to weighing a skeptic's reasoning against displays of supernatural mischief. But for a good while, it's got a handsome sheen in its favor and it dares to evoke something resembling a nuanced performance out of Hopkins, before having him succumb to his recent scenery-chewing habits.
This movie is proudly "inspired by true events," of course; Michael Petroni's screenplay was "suggested" by reporter Matt Baglio's book, so make of that what you will. The real-life Father Gary Thomas has been replaced by young buck Michael Kovak (O'Donoghue), driven to seminary school by longstanding issues with his father, the mortician (Rutger Hauer) who embalmed Mommy when the time came. After four years of study, Michael decides that maybe he isn't cut out for the clergy, but after Father Superior (Toby Jones) suggests that his scholarship would be converted into substantial student loans should he leave, he sucks it up and heads off to the Vatican for a two-month crash course in the rituals of exorcism.