Thursday, April 26, 2007

Movie Review: My B.U.D.D.I.

Martin Mipsy (William Shatner), a nerdy but endearingly unemployed scientist, is trying to invent "the first true artificial intelligence system" in his garage ... well, really in his basement, as the house lacks a garage. His whole family's feisty perseverence is established early -- in a brilliant scene Martin's wife, Babs (Holly Hunter), leads the couple's four small children in a high-spirited search for the family jalopy, poking broomhandles into head-high snowdrifts.

In his quest, Martin has the enthusiastic but erratic help of his elderly neighbor, Hal (Harvey Keitel), who is a genius with small engines &c., but no longer really belongs behind the wheel of a lawn tractor. (A hilarious cliffhanger ensues as a white-knuckled Keitel takes on a steep slope!)

But after a promising start, the film seems to become confused. Given all his hard work on the refrigerator-sized "box," why is Hal conspicuously absent when "the box" (B.U.D.D.I.) taps out its most exciting (albeit awkwardly spelled) early messages to Babs, the press, the Mayor and the Governor. Why isn't Keitel in those big scenes? Trouble on the set? It strains the viewer's credulity when Hal's dental appointments repeatedly coincide with the visits of increasingly impressive dignitaries. Can't he just reschedule??

When the creepy, arrogant team from A.P.E.M.E.A.T. show up with their jaded cynicism and batteries of "touring tests," they exude credibility -- decked out in spotless white lab coats and stethoscopes, they epitomize serious Artificial Intelligence Research in a way that the bluejeaned, bearded Martin plainly never will. Perhaps because of this, the audience is ready to side with the plucky underdogs Martin and Hal. But, puzzlingly, in this climactic scene, B.U.D.D.I. puts on an uncharacteristically lackluster performance. With their own reputations (and budget!) at risk, the experts are visibly reluctant to take Martin at his word that the B.U.D.D.I. is "just shy." Yet he and Hal do little to answer the scientists' openly skeptical remarks. When the scientists agree to conduct further testing remotely via the internet, they're clearly just throwing a sop to the desperate Mipsy -- a second try at a test B.U.D.D.I. has already failed once. Today's increasingly tech-savvy audiences, accustomed to the global village, won't swallow the idea that a computer would feel less shy just because people are physically farther away. Isn't it all just zeros and ones? We're left with a terrible feeling that Martin's brief professional Indian summer is already over.

If this reminds you of the bicycle race scene in Breaking Away, you're not alone. But then what to make of the bizarre tableau later that night, in which Martin and Hal raise their glasses and laugh as if in careless triumph? What's going on? I know what movie I came to see, but I don't think the director and cast knew what movie they were trying to make. And what's the story behind the ranks of empty bottles inside "the box" during the closing credits? Laph-? Talisk-? Glenliv-? I don't get it. Where's the array of supercomputers? Too many things are never explained.

Three stars out of seven. Save it for a first date.
PW Entertainment Staff


Blogger HA HA HA said...

You, sir, are a genius.

9:58 AM  
Blogger Project WANNABE said...

lol, ty

10:35 AM  

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