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A.I.:Artificial Intelligence
2001 - R - NA Mins.
Director: Steven Spielberg
Producer: Kathleen Kennedy, Steven Spielberg, Bonnie Curtis
Written By: Ian Watson, Steven Spielberg
Starring: Haley Joel Osment, Jude Law, Frances O\'Connor, Sam Robards, William Hurt
Review by: David Trier
We seem to have reached a point in cinema where production value outshines that which once made great movies - story. It has become increasingly difficult to review films lately. Special effects are breath-taking, sound engineering is mind-blowing and cinematography is so brilliant these days that you feel guilty for voicing that which once made you feel so enlightened - "Hey! This is stupid!"

About the period in the future we would start boldly going where no man has gone before, Monica (Frannces O'Connor) and Henry Swinton (Sam Robards) mourn their terminally ill, cryogenically frozen son Martin (Jake Thomas). Henry works for an android-building corporation where the head professor, Allen Hobby (William Hurt) has come up with a prototype for a child android. He is programmed essentially to be a kid, and above all, to love the person he becomes imprinted to. So one day Henry brings David (Haley Joel Osment) home. Monica is less than pleased by the idea since, let's face it THAT'S SOME WEIRD SH*T. But she soon grows attached to his cute little android ways and she decides to have him imprinted on her. She says the magic words and presses the magic buttons and the deal is sealed. Now apparently (and this is in the instruction manual in several languages so don't come crying to me), once the robo-child is imprinted, he has to be returned to the company to be destroyed. He won't work for anyone else. Monica reads him Pinocchio which, surprise-surprise, he finds most illuminating. Life is basically good for a while and David makes friends with his robo-teddy-bear (Jack Angel), but Martin miraculously gets better (I'm tellin' ya, medical marijuana guys) and returns home. Much to nobody's surprise, Martin does not take well to his artificial brother and the two quickly get competitive until it becomes dangerous. So Monica has to give David up, but she feels bad about returning him to the company where she knows he'll be destroyed. The solution? LEAVE HIM IN THE WOODS. David is soon after captured by, well, people who capture stray robots and thrown into a cell at a carnival where robots are destroyed for fun. He meets Gigolo Joe (Jude Law), an android designed just like me - to pleasure women. When they escape from the "Flesh Fair" David figures he must find the Blue Fairy who can turn him into a real boy just like Pinocchio. Then his mommy will love him. Joe helps him on his quest which ultimately leads him to... a long and complicated series of how-in-the-hell-are-we-gonna-finish-this-movie events.

Spielberg may be one of the greatest directors of all time, but let's not forget he also made Jurassic Park 2: The Lost World. A.I. isn't a bad movie, and Spielberg does a decent directing job, but someone should have noticed the gaping holes in this script's logic. More on this later. Good stuff first. The special effects and cinematography are really terrific and probably worth the price of admission. The acting is generally decent but awfully hard to review because it's tainted by the troubled story. Frances O'Connor does a very moving performance as the mother, even if her actions make little sense. Jude Law is quite entertaining in his role, even though his role could be completely removed and it would have no effect on the story. He really only serves to get David from point A to point B. Haley Joel Osment is cuter than sin and deserves praise for his performance. Although most of it involves either looking expressionless or confused in an upward direction (he's a robot, remember?), he has a few opportuinities to shine. If you don't feel at least a little emotional after the performance he gives when he's first abandoned - YOU ARE NOT HUMAN, TURN YOURSELF IN. But the best acting, and indeed the best overall character, is that of Teddy (the robo-teddy bear). Jack Angel gives sincerity and simplicity to his voice while the special effects allow the bear to be a fully functional and believable character. He provides in real life what children imagine their dolls provide, security and arbitration. What do I do? Well, Teddy thinks this may be a good idea. The best line in the movie is when Teddy sees David doing something dangerous, he grabs his arm and says, "You'll break." The irony of this terrific character is that it reveals one of the biggest problems with the whole story. The bear robot, which can easily be turned on or off, is hugely more intelligent than the boy robot who seems to show no capacity for learning whatsoever. He's supposed to be a fully functional artificial boy who loves and learns, yet for the length of the entire film he never has any idea that Pinocchio may just be a fairy tale!

Well, I'm ready for the problems now. The biggest problem by far is that the main character is a robot. No matter how cute he is, he can never be as cute as a real live ferret. It's unfortunate that he yearns for his mother with such painful intensity, but this is only because he's been programmed to. That makes it entirely his problem and separates the audience from the protagonist. If there was a part of him that was human (like maybe Robocop) we could identify with that part and stretch it over the whole character, but David is just a machine, so too bad. Which brings me to the next problem. The film seems intent on selling me on this idea that there would be a huge movement aimed at destroying artificiality in the future. There's a huge fair full of regular people throwing beer bottles at the robots and marveling at them being destroyed. Frankly, I'm just not convinced that people as a collective would care all that much. It just looked silly. And speaking of selling me an idea, here's one that drops the film a letter grade. Call me callous, call me cynical, hell, call me Shirley if you like, but nobody should ever love their mother as much as this kid does. By the end of the film, it's just downright creepy, bordering on Oedipal. Oh, and what kind of computer-based thingamajiggy can't just be reprogrammed? Hell, I'm human and I've been reprogrammed several times (must kill must kill must kill shhh!) So if the main character is only a machine, is being hunted by an unlikely social phenomenon, and suffers from an emotional yearning that isn't natural - what exactly is at stake?

John Williams pours a typically Spielberg orchestration over the whole film. Beautiful music but so ever-present it makes many of the otherwise dramatic scenes seem soap-opera-y. The last act is overcomplicated, convoluted, and altogether too long, but I have to admit it's very creative and very pleasing to the eye. So ultimately, I liked "watching" A.I. and certain moments and characters stuck with me but as for the gestalt of the film, "Hey! This is stupid!"
Movie Guru Rating
Average but solid.  Fans of this genre will probably enjoy it.  Others may not. Average but solid.  Fans of this genre will probably enjoy it.  Others may not. Average but solid.  Fans of this genre will probably enjoy it.  Others may not.
  3 out of 5 stars

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