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Directed by Steven Spielberg.
Written by Steven Spielberg and Ian Watson.  Based on a short story by Brian Aldiss.
Starring Haley Joel Osment, Jude Law, Frances O'Connor, and William Hurt.
Release Year:  2001
Review Date:  7/2/01


You know what “A.I.” stands for?

Way too damned long!!

I didn't know much about this movie before I went into it, courtesy of the fact that I only saw one trailer for the film before I saw the full-length movie, and that one preview told me nothing.  This, friends, is amazing given that I see two films a week.  So, I came into this one blind except for the fact that I had heard this was going to be a Stanley Kubrick film...until he died in 1999, shortly before he released his final film, “Eyes Wide Shut.”  So, Steven Spielberg took over.

Set in the near future, the film concerns itself with a 11-year-old boy named David (Oscar nominee Haley Joel Osment, “The Sixth Sense”) who is really a Mecca boy—a robot programmed to be obedient to its owners, and as the first of his model type, David is also capable of “loving” his owners/parents.  The mad scientist who creates him (Oscar winner William Hurt) believes that there is a palpable market in the near future for robot boys and girls that are capable of loving human beings.  But, will the parents that receive these robotic children really love them back?  That is the question that Kubrick—or maybe Spielberg—wants us to see dealt with over the course of the film.  Along the course of his journey, David meets up with an adult Mecca named Joe (Oscar nominee Jude Law) who tries to help him complete an intriguing mission.

The 150-minute film does very well through 80% of the ride.  Osment is incredible in this role—the quality of his acting is superb and after watching this movie, you can tell why so many people think he might be able to break out of childhood and still be able to get roles in Hollywood.  The way he talks, the way he moves, the sick way that he laughs during an early dinner sequence in the film...the kid has talent, that much cannot be denied.  Overall, the acting is as strong as it gets for an ensemble, with Law, Hurt, and Frances O'Connor (as David's “mother”, Monica) all delivering the goods.

And, the set design and art direction of this film are off the charts at times.  I read today that this movie cost over $100 million to make, and now I see why—all of it is thrown into spectacular visions of a New Jersey of the future (and late in the film, Manhattan) and the look of the other Mecca robots in the film is pretty cool.  Just looking at Law's character Joe in his first few scenes was cool to me.  The makeup of his character—and his way-too-smooth robotic “skin”—is amazing and while not groundbreaking, still impressive indeed.

The story?  Unlike most of the summer fare so far, this plot goes deeper than you first think, as we follow David through his journey to discover if he is a real boy or not.  The way others treat his robotic self makes you think a lot about how it will (inevitably) be when artificial people will be roaming the planet; I'm no scientist, but I would guess that clones or robotic humans will be walking around sooner than you think.  And, for PG-13, this is a pretty intense movie at times—its look at torture, brief violence and its treatment of sexuality with other robots make it a movie that, despite Osment's presence, is decidedly not for children.

Like I said, the first two hours of the film are pretty good.  BUT [about to give away a little bit about the ending, so skip to the end now if you don't wanna know!]

When David and the hilarious Teddy Bear character are caught at the bottom of the ocean underneath that huge collapsed Ferris wheel, I thought the movie would be over.  (In fact, the narration that comes on indicated to me that the film would end with David staring at the Blue Fairy for all of time.)  So, why did Spielberg feel the need to extend the film another 30 minutes?  I was all ready to get the hell out of the theater, and then we find out that it is not over!

What made it worse was that David didn't freeze or become waterlogged from sitting in a chopper for not ten or twenty years, but TWO THOUSAND years!!!!!  I'm willing to stretch a lot of things, but I was irate that besides brushing off a few ice chips, David was perfectly fine...and so was fucking Teddy!!  And, how were they saved?  They were saved by aliens!  And, not just any fucking aliens, oh no...they were saved by English-speaking aliens!!  (By English speaking, I don't mean that they were speaking that to just David, oh no; save for the aliens' first scene, they spoke to EACH OTHER in fucking English!!  Come on!!)  AND, even worse than the fact that they spoke perfect English, they *looked* like human beings!!  Why is it that special effects gurus can't come up with some stranger shapes to evoke the presence of aliens in our imaginations?  The only difference between the shape of David and the physical shape of the aliens was that they were taller.  Besides that, they had two legs, two arms, a decent sized head, etc.

Where is the creativity?  Where is the creativity?  WHERE IS THE CREATIVITY?????

And, the last half-hour of “A.I.” felt totally like the last 40 minutes or so of Kubrick's “2001”...I have the feeling that this was not coincidental, but I still didn't like it.  You should never try to mess with the classics, even if it is your own.

Anyway, if I were you, I would leave right around the two-hour mark.  You will be happy that you did.  The ending brings a great experience back to earth.

Rating:  Matinee


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
© 1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09