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Not so intelligent

A.I. hits a low I.Q.

My gut reaction after viewing Steven Spielberg's Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) was to rename it Insult to Intelligence, but I'm sure that's being done all over the country. This film has some good themes to work with but, sadly, all are tossed aside to jam the plot into "The Almighty Formula".

Briefly, the accolades: Haley Joel Osment is an outstanding young actor as David, the "Mecha" or mecha-nical boy. William Hurt and Jude Law turn in solid performances. And homage must be paid to the talented crew who brought the truly dazzling special effects to life.

A.I. opens with a narrator setting the scene: sometime in the future, the ice caps have melted, flooding most of the major coastal cities of the world. Humanoid robots (replicants for those who've seen Blade Runner) are everywhere and indispensable because they don't consume the scarce natural resources. At this point I'm thinking, "sci-fi, socially relevant, it's got potential."

We are introduced to Professor Hobby, played by William Hurt, who has created a robot child with the capacity to love, potentially filling the emotional needs of childless couples everywhere. Henry and Monica Swinton, played by Sam Robards and Frances O'Connor, adopt the first such robot, David. Rivalry and jealousy ensue with their real son, creating dramatic tension and suspenseful scenes.

A.I. goes straight south and doesn't stop when it ceases to be a science fiction film about intelligent androids and starts being a fairy tale with Robot Boy as the hero. A series of events force David's "mother" to abandon him in the forest. He then embarks on the old hero's journey through one long, long, long night with his talking Teddy Bear and the android gigolo he meets along the way. They encounter ghouls, the dreaded anti-robot people, the wizard, the blue fairy and some aliens on his quest to be real and loved, just like Pinocchio.

Steven Spielberg begs us, sleeves dripping with sentimentality, to invest our emotions in the plight of little, crying robot boy. And judging by the audience's laughter during several of the more "sentimental" moments, it really doesn't work. For one, he's a robot. For some, perhaps it does work. The story is, after all, directly taken from several all-time classics (The Wizard of Oz, Blade Runner, Pinocchio, Night of the Living Dead, etc.) So striking are the similarities, I wished I were watching any of those films instead of this one.

At last we come to the never-ending ending, which made me cringe and others laugh out loud. The writing is literally laughable, and the way the man-boy's love for mommy manifests itself in this script is more than a little odd. It's a mother obsessed, infantile male's fantasy, bordering on eroticism, with heavy Oedipus leanings. Freud would have a field day.

For those of you who are titillated by computer-animated, special effects and don't mind some obvious, trite, fairly tale rehashing, this could be the film for you. The rest of you may find it more pleasurable getting your gums scraped for 2 hours.


Rated PG-13
2 hours 25 minutes
Director: Steven Spielberg

Haley Joel Osment
Jude Law
William Hurt
Frances O'Connor
Sam Roberts
Brendan Gleeson