Haley Joel Osment and Jude Law in AI: Artificial Intelligence.
By now everything Steven Spielberg touches is met with such a rush of pre-conceived expectations, which must certainly be rather a burden for any filmmaker to live up to. When I first read that he was going to finish the project Stanley Kubrik had been working on at the time of his death I was definitely intrigued. A collaboration between these two directors, about as far apart in terms of the type of films they have made as can be imagined, seemed almost ludicrous. But then I learned that the story was a futuristic, sci-fi flick featuring an eleven year old boy (albeit a robotic one) as its main character. Suddenly it all made sense.
The finished product clearly shows hallmarks of both men. The slow, meandering pace and long, floating camera shots are vintage Kubrik. The relationship between 'boy' and 'mom' is pure Spielberg as is the childlike sense of wonder apparent throughout the movie. 2001 meets E.T. if you will, without being nearly as good as either one. Still it is a far more interesting bit of celluloid than we are likely to be greeted with for the duration of the season.
A.I. has three distinct segments much like a traditional three-act play. The opening section is really just a family melodrama in a slightly futuristic setting. Then comes the middle (and most enjoyable) section. Here we meet Gigolo Joe and learn what a Flesh Fair is. The funeral pace actually picks up here but only for a short time, then it is back to snail-dom. The final phase of the movie seems almost tacked on and takes things to another level entirely. I actually thought the movie was over at one point but it goes on for another thirty minutes. At which time I had that rare sensation of being in a theater and not having a clue where the movie I was watching was going to end up. Unfortunately it took so long to get there that I pretty much stopped caring.
Haley Joel Osment does live up to the hype surrounding his performance. I mean the guy doesn't blink once in a 2 1/2-hour movie. The parallels to Pinocchio are poignant and appropriate and the futuristic visuals are first rate. Still what should have been a masterpiece is only slightly above average.
Haley Joel Osment and Jude Law in AI: Artificial Intelligence.
I have a love/hate relationship with Spielberg movies. I love Jaws, the Indiana Jones Trilogy, E.T., Close Encounters of the Third Kind, yet I hate Schindler's List, wasn't that crazy about Saving Private Ryan, or really any of his other work, except for the ones I mentioned as loving. Therefore, it wasn't with any great anticipation that I went to see A.I., especially after learning that it would be starring Haley Joel Osmont. I have nothing against this young star, I just know of Spielberg's penchant for schmaltz when it comes to children in his movies. And so I was pleasantly surprised to see that the schmaltz level is kept to a minimum in this movie, however there is a host of other, and much worse, problems that we are left to contend with.
The best statement Patrick makes in his summation of this film is that the middle third of the movie is the most enjoyable. I would go one step further and say that it is the only enjoyable part. The first third is mildly intriguing, but basically uninteresting and predictable. The middle third, thanks to Jude Law and my personal favorite character, Teddy the Bear, is almost a different movie entirely. And the final third is just a mess, with the 'climax' basically a Freudian nightmare.
The story of A.I. is, as Patrick mentioned, paralleled with Pinocchio. Haley Joel Osmont plays a child android proto-type intended to replace children since the population of the world must now be controlled in this pseudo-future. He is adopted by a family whose son is dying. When the son unexpectedly recovers, the android child is no longer needed. Not wanting to see him destroyed, as he would be if returned to the factory, his 'mother' drops him off in the woods to fend for himself. The rest of the movie is basically his quest to become a real boy by finding the Blue Fairy, the character form Pinocchio who turned the wooden puppet into a real boy.
I've heard this movie described as thought-provoking. Well, I'm not sure what thoughts are supposed to be provoked. Android rights? I don't think we're really at a point where that matters yet. For a movie involving androids and thought-provoking, rent Ridley Scott's Bladerunner. If you just want to see a really long movie that meanders along as if not sure of where it is going, than by all means go see this one.
Haley Joel Osment and Frances O'Connor in AI: Artificial Intelligence.
I remember seeing the Beverly Hill Billies movie and thinking, wow they just took a half hour of screen time to do what the television show did in a 2 minute theme song. Too much unneeded detail, that is not entertaining. This is the very problem in A.I.
Okay, here are your options. Watch the hour long Disney, Pinocchio cartoon or the 2 and a half hour Spielberg directed A.I. Both stories have the same plot. A.I. has good effects but Pinocchio has memorable songs. After watching Pinocchio you may find yourself whistling 'I Got No Strings' or 'When You Wish Upon A Star'. After watching A.I. you will wish you had watched Pinocchio.
A.I. retells Pinocchio's story in a depressing, futuristic setting. A robotic, and very boring, Teddy Bear takes the place of Jiminy Cricket. Instead of a puppet show we have Flesh Fairs, where robots are destroyed in various ways for a crowds amusement. There is even a blue Fairy.
The plot has several holes. One is when they are at a flesh fair getting destroyed. The crowd is amazed when Pinocchio, oops I mean David the robotic child, screams to be saved. 'he must be a real boy.' They scream. 'Robots don't yell for help'. Well if they don't then why did they run away from the flesh fairs? Why did they hide from the round up. Do they have self preservation programming or not? Actually I don't really care, I am just pointing out a flaw.
The one good thing I can point out about this movie is Haley Joel Osment. His performance is staggeringly affective. He has to recite the dumbest dialogue. 'I am a real boy' Yet his conviction to this performance pulls it off. When this movie is either putting you to sleep or making you wonder when it will end you at least have his talent in nearly every scene to marvel at.
A long, tedious, bloated movie that pompously attempts to make a statement about love. The only thing it accomplishes is that it is proof positive that a director is not the most important ingredient in the success and enjoyment of a movie. It is the plot. Which, sadly, this movie lacked in.
Photos © Copyright Warner Bros. (2001)