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The Lawnmower Man
1992 - R - 107 Mins.
Director: Brett Leonard
Written By: Brett Leonard
Starring: Jeff Fahey, Pierce Brosnan, Austin O'Brien, Jenny Wright, Geoffrey Lewis
Review by: John Ulmer
   
From the same film company that brought you the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy comes...something very different and inferior (and I wasn't even a huge fan of the "LotR" films!).

"The Lawnmower Man" is so bad that Stephen King removed his name from the advertising for the film ("based on a short story by..."). He claims that "The Lawnmower Man's" film adaptation is absolutely nothing like his story. Yet this is the man who allowed his name to be used for "The Running Man" with Arnold Schwarzenegger (a great mindless action flick), even though it's absolutely nothing like the book (which I have read, and which loses focus towards the middle). King wrote under the pseudonym of Richard Bachman for "The Running Man" (and several other books), but he still allowed his name to be used as part of the advertising run for Arnie's film version of his novel. (Although he is still credited as Richard Bachman during the beginning/end credits.)

So you can just imagine how bad this film is if he wanted his name removed from its existence.

And it is pretty bad. I had heard a lot of good things about this film--err, I thought I did. Turns out that the film has generally low ratings anyway: The Internet Movie Database has the film clocked in at exactly 5.0 (out of a possible 10) stars as of January 14th, 2004, and Rotten Tomatoes has a Rotten reading of the film with 50% good (and bad) reviews.

Jeff Fahey (who?) plays Jobe, a mentally retarded lawn mower (not the machine, I mean a real lawn mower man) who gets picked on by friends, rents a small room at a church run by a crazy priest (why are the priests always crazy?), and allows himself to be beaten by the crazy old man. Oh, and he hangs out with a small kid named Peter (Austin O'Brien) every day. Yep, he's got a nice life. He's certainly not a loser.

This changes when Larry (Pierce Brosnan in a pre-Bond role) experiments on Jobe using his state-of-the-art virtual reality simulator, which engages areas of Jobe's brain, making him become smarter (and apparently stronger?) in very little time. Soon he's experiencing new sensations with the town *flirt* and boasting a bunch of strong muscles.

But Jobe starts to lose control when his mind becomes too strong, and he learns how to take apart human beings' bodies with special effects--which pretty much means he turns everyone into hundreds of small digital bits. (There is one thing, however, that doesn't fit--how in the world does someone turn human beings into electronic form when they're in the real world?! Oh, wait, maybe he's in The Matrix and he's an Agent--that would work. They should try a tie-in: "Neo vs. The Lawnmower Man." Actually, on second thought...no.)

I didn't buy Jeff Fahey as a retard for one single moment. He more or less looked like Jeff Daniels' character Harry Dunne, from "Dumb and Dumber," for the first hour--prancing about with shaggy blond hair and muttering words like an idiot. I can honestly say that Fahey is not representing most mentally challenged people in his role for this film. And if he is, someone should sue him.

Fahey (I'll ask again: who?) is not a great actor, and either is Pierce Brosnan, who more or less keeps this film alive throughout. His is the best performance in the film. Admit it, that's pretty sad. (For the record, I like Brosnan as James Bond--I think he's the best since THE best [Connery]--but sometimes he gets in over his head in films. This is one of them.)

I really did look forward to "The Lawnmower Man," but I had no idea what to expect. I didn't think it would be as weird as this. I thought that--given what little I knew about the plot--there was the potential to make an interesting, engaging science fiction film (I'm not exactly a huge fan of the genre, although some people who are might like this film). I was wrong. Everything here is wrong, and the film's best feature--the thing everyone remembers it for--are the so-called "great" special effects. Right. Let's move on to that.

The special effects, which may have been quite extraordinary in 1992, are nothing compared to today's special effects. Obviously the filmmakers thought this would be the way of the future--virtual reality simulators--but it's not, and the graphics look like they've come out of some low-budget 80s strobe music video with drug-induced background fluctuations. When Jobe inserts his mind into the computer (how does on do that?), he turns into the image of a bald man with edgy features and lumber logs for limbs. Huh? This is what the video cover for the box boasts "the best special effects since ''Terminator 2'"?

Right. And quoting Arnold Schwarzenegger, who was of course in "T2" (vastly superior to "The Lawnmower Man," by the way):

"And if you believe that, you'll also believe that there are little Richard Simmons's running around!"

Yeah, it's better not to ask about that one, either.
 
Movie Guru Rating
Disappointing.  Had the right ingredients and should have been better. Disappointing.  Had the right ingredients and should have been better.
  2 out of 5 stars

 
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