Pretend for a moment that Nicole Kidman doesn’t swap spit with a 10-year-old, or let him hop into the tub with her.

Take out Birth’s icky, controversial scenes (which reportedly had critics in Venice jeering) and remove all the pedophilia issues — and the movie would still be lame.

Kidman and director Jonathan Glazer have a heck of a challenge in this movie: Can they convince us that Kidman’s character, Anna, is convinced that a little boy is her dead husband reincarnated? Um, no.

Not to diss the concept of reincarnation (frankly, I’d like to come back looking like Nicole Kidman). But here we have Anna, an Upper East Side socialite, who almost without flinching takes a little kid’s word that he’s her long-dead hubby, solely because the boy provides a few details from their relationship. And we are also to believe that she falls in love with him and isolates herself from her fiance and family — never mind that this kid still swings on monkey bars, climbs trees and probably hasn’t mastered long division. And as if falling for the little weirdo’s act isn’t unbelievable enough, Anna crawls back to her fiance and pleads, “I cannot be held accountable for my actions.”

Sister, you had a choice. A little boy wanders into your bathroom and takes off his clothes. Instead of welcoming him into the tub, one might say something like: “Listen, you little perv, I don’t care if you are James frickin’ Dean reincarnated. Take your scrawny ass out of my bathroom and put some clothes on.”

That would be one choice.

Or here’s another option: When your fiance flips out at a family gathering because the little boy is kicking his chair incessantly, instead of inviting the boy to stay the night, you could say, “Listen, kid. Go home and find a nice third-grader to stalk.”

The only points the movie earns are for style. Alexanrdre Desplat’s score is superb. It has a springy, airy, waltz-like style with a rumbling undertone and provides the one truly spooky element in the film.

What’s more, Kidman looks ravishing in a pixie cut and a luxurious wardrobe. She throws around her big eyes with that haunted look she does so well. But conjuring up images of Mia Farrow in Polanski’s classic thriller Rosemary’s Baby doesn’t make the movie any scarier.

Really, it just reminds us of what a dud Birth is.

Clare Pfeiffer Ramsey writes about film for Metro Times. E-mail [email protected].

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