Film Reviews


By • Jun 29th, 2001 •

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Warner Bros / PG-13 / 146min

A.I. is an excruciating bore about selfish parents Henry (Sam Robards) and Monica (Frances O’Connor). After having their son Martin in deep freeze for five years, scientist (and scared husband) Henry gives his grieving wife a really neat gift: a perfect, slave-child robot named David (Haley Joel Osment) who will love her unconditionally. Love is not earned or deserved in this world of the future. It’s a custom-made supertoy that can be brought by the spoiled rich.

Monica is warned not to “imprint” with the robot-boy unless she understands and agrees to the conditions: if she gets tired of her adopted robot-son he will be destroyed. She does anyhow, setting aside her apprehensions in favor of her immediate emotional needs. But she doesn’t bond with the robot-boy. Henry should have brought her a cute little puppy instead.

David calls Monica ‘Mommy’, but Henry is, interestingly, still Henry. When their real son returns home, David is treated terribly, like an old dog. In this household, all we see is the family at the dinner table eating, something the robot boy-son cannot do. Thank goodness the adopted robot boy-son was not a bedridden paraplegic, or Henry and Monica would have insisted on attending soccer games every day and family exercising for hours. Monica reads to Martin in bed, while poor David (who doesn’t need to sleep) is made to sit off faraway in a corner. Adoptive parents with biological children are going to be enraged by this behavior and the implications it harbors. After an accident involving Martin and David – without finding out the facts – evil mother Monica abandons her adopted robot-son in a forest! In lieu of giving him some Hans Christian Andersen breadcrumbs, she gives him a few bucks!

David gets to see how real people treat their useless robots by abusing them in Roman Games-like circus acts of cruelty. David, recalling Monica’s reading of the story of Pinocchio (what an insensitive thing to do!), goes in search of The Blue Fairy who will make him a real boy. This will win him the love of Monica – who doesn’t deserve it or need it anymore. David teams up with Gigolo Joe (Jude Law) who dances along in homage to A CLOCKWORK ORANGE. The movie takes a quick dark turn into “Flesh Fair” Land. It should have stayed put with more adventures of Gigolo Joe, David, and Teddy The Bear.

The rest of the story lumbers on and on, ending then starting up again in another direction that is downright ridiculous and E.T. THE EXTRATERRESTRIAL derivative. I won’t ruin it for movie masochists who need to count the number of tributes to Kubrick’s films and Spielberg’s own. This is Spielberg’s loving tribute to Stanley Kubrick and a bloated tribute to himself.

I will say that Spielberg does a brilliant job of infusing A.I. with the spirit and serene cold magic of Kubrick. There are many scenes – an entire passage – that are memorials to the mysterious wonderment of 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY. However, I was very put off by Spielberg mining his own visual I.D.’s such as the boy in the doorway holding the teddy bear (CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND) and the hiding in the closet scream (E.T. THE EXTRATERRESTRIAL).

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