By Lisa Schwarzbaum
Updated September 01, 2000 at 04:00 AM EDT

Whether one of satan’s henchmen is Kim Basinger’s business advisor is something only her agent can confirm. All I know is that fresh from the travelogue dud I Dreamed of Africa, the onetime Oscar winner’s career goes to hell in a handbasket in the abysmally stupid drama Bless the Child. Director Chuck Russell also made the infinitely better comedy The Mask. After this, he may want to wear a mask.

Basinger plays Maggie O’Connor, an improbably refined-looking nurse living in a slummy New York City neighborhood, who becomes a virgin mother when her junkie sister leaves an infant daughter in Maggie’s manger apartment. That the girl, Cody (Holliston Coleman, who has mastered somber staring), can perform miracles of goodness is of urgent interest both to an evil New Age cult guru (Rufus Sewell, his charm shorn with his curls), and to a seminarian-turned-FBI agent (Jimmy Smits, who gave up NYPD Blue so he could flash a badge in this?).

The black hole of this sensationalistic hooey — originally a read-on-the-subway shlock novel by Cathy Cash Spellman — is so deep that it swallows up everyone who enters its force field: Ian Holm slums foolishly as an Irish priest; Christina Ricci raves as an Addams Family-style cult escapee. Even the computer-generated flying gargoyles who herald The Dark One look embarrassed about their part in this dreck. F