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Artificial Intelligence

Without a doubt Steven Spielberg has truly out done himself with this mega-masterpiece.

I see a lot of movies; some good, some bad, and rarely as great as what I saw this evening. Again, as with Castaway last season, the audience was viciously divided. I stand firmly and unswerving on the A.I. fanatic side.

A.I. combines a brilliant, believable premise, meticulous, ornate sets, a precise cast and a wonderful three-dimensional script, which is all orchestrated by one of our greatest living directors, Steven Spielberg.

The premise behind A.I., a boy-bot with nearly human emotions, is not so far fetched. Artificial intelligence is all around us now. From the purchase of an airline ticket to fiiling up your tank at the gas-n-blow mart. We deal with it everyday on a lower level. Meanwhile, MIT's (a really smart person place in Boston) Dr. Cynthia Breazeal has actually even invented an animated robot with higher than the normal wax your- shoes- cart-your-drink-intelligence, named Kismet. It actually has the ability of instantiation - reaction. Not as sophisticated as A.I.'s near-perfect "David" but I'd say they are heading there. Through the science of film and sound, Spielberg brings us to the future. A time when human-esque robots wait on us, make love to us and are as common as fluffy pink elephant slippers. A pair in every home.

A.I. is about a new kind of robot or "mecha", mechanical being, that is being beta-tested. There's only one and he's been programmed to accept and to give love. To feel emotion.

Before you start gasping for air from a sudden aneurysm caused by the traumatic memory of that mega-creepy-flop Bicentennial Man (Robin Williams' hardly seen film faux pas), remember this is Spielberg production.

We meet David (Haley Joel Osment). David is to be placed with a family that meets all the designers' criteria, mostly their despair.

The "real" son the adoptive family presently has is frozen in a lab waiting for a cure for his particular illness. When the father's (Sam Robards) place of employ, a cybertronics plant, offers him their newest and most avant-garde robot/product to date, he thinks it would be healthy for his wife (Frances O'Connor) to have a mock-child to love. Not to replace the freeze-dried carcass, er, son, they visit every weekend, but to, perhaps, help her let go and love again...

David arrives not by stork, but by elevator. He is just "fitting in" with his new organic mommy and daddy when he gets a rude surprise. Poor boy, er, robot. Ultimately, he must be taken away from the family and, even worse, his new, beloved mommy.

Okay it starts off a bit hokey and could use some editing, but stay with it. It will get better.

He and his personal animatronic super-toy he received from his mom, a wise old teddy bear that walks, talks, and advises (that will be in my vast obsessive toy collection by Sunday), named, Teddy, are left in a mean, robot hating part of the world to fend for themselves.

David is rounded up, with other misfit "toys" and sold to a Flesh Fair, where humans string up, smash, melt and torture robots in a protest to the robots "taking over." How humane. But, it's in this wretched, scary circus of the cruel and bizarre that David meets and befriends a renegade man lover-bot, yes, I mean LOVER-bot Gigolo Joe (Jude- dreadfully handsome-Law).

Together they escape and set out on a journey never before attempted by their kind. David wants to find the magical fairy that he had heard about, unfortunately, in a fairy tale he'd been read while back with his "family." He's smart, but not Dennis Miller smart, just child-like smart. David believes, in his little panel wired heart, that it is only through her that he can become a "real" boy and gain acceptance and true love from his mommy. Sniff.

As we travel with David, Teddy and Joe we are introduced to a world that comes spectacularly alive and surges off the screen. One such place is a future metropolis, with Gotham tendacies and Las Vegas style glitz called Rouge. A sleazy red-light district of the future that would make Amsterdam blush with modesty. Lover bots carouse, sex shows abound, XXX is the name of the game. But, Rouge also happens to be where an all-knowing Wizard of Oz-like character resides. The wizard holds the answers for all, and most importantly for questing David, to ask.

Besides all the magical directing wonders that you'll feast your eyes upon, Spielenbergenschnitzelheimerschmidt and his creme-de-la-creme behind the scenes crew of fantasy makers have created a believable world that's at once original, a tad scary, like Woody Allen's Sleeper, or A Clockwork Orange and yet still has the innocence of Pinocchio.

Spielberg's the only guy I can think of that could have pulled this off so flawlessly. Okay, the long beginning aside.

Haley Joel Osment is perhaps, the only child that makes my mothering "clock" tick. I simply adore this child. If you could be absolutely guaranteed a little Beatle-cute boy like that...well, I'd say "stick an epidural in me and call a mid-wife." But, with my luck I'd get a mutant demon spawn, so best I stick to canine children and leave the breeding to those who can handle it. H.J Osment is an intense talent, who just keeps turning in remarkable performances.

Jude Law is so sharp and tangy looking, in a slather him up in Thai peanut sauce and finger-paint the day away way. He's a pretty boy. BUT a manly, sexy pretty boy. Especially in the Who Quadrophenia gear they have him sporting in this shindig. Anywhere, anyhow, anyway! He's a sensual hit with women, men, and I believe, Koalas. We eat him up- yum. Another immensely talented actor who seems to pick his work for script and not loot. I even loved The Talented Mr. Ripley. Still don't get people's loathing of that movie... Though, hopefully, he "Aflecked" this A.I. deal and made his contract include a percent of profit.

William Hurt plays the man who creates young David. It's a small role delivered in his usual ease. Thanks to Kevin Spacey's impressions of him, I now laugh aloud whenever the man hits a screen. Dam you, Spacey, and your razor wit!

While the screenplay is scripted by Spielberg, it's based on a short robot toy story,"Super Toys Last All Summer Long," by acclaimed Sci-fi writer Brian Aldiss that had appeared in a 1969 Harper's Bazaar, and it was the late visionary Stanley Kubrick who first wished to see it done with technical extravagance on the big screen.

Kubrick, a colossal multi-talent himself, told friend Spielberg of the A.I. tale. Stan trusted it to his friend before his death, and he wouldn't be disappointed in what Stevie's done. A quote from long time Spielberg associate Kathleen Kennedy sums it up best, " There's no question this is a movie that has Steven Spielberg sensibilities all over it. But the subtext is all Kubrick."

So, relax Kubrickians. It turned out to be out-there-enough that it would have intrigued your beloved Kubrick, and gosh-golly Spielbergy enough to keep it in check.

A.I. is a modern fairy tale for the more computer savvy audience. It has a PG-13 rating and deservedly. I would say watch out with the real preteens. This is heavy, thought provoking, possibly nightmare inducing stuff for the wee-er ones folks. Not to mention the six or seven heart- in- your- throat emotional- moments, moral issues on creating which will probably have their little heads near combustion with confusion. Yep, best to leave the squirts at home with a sitter and their artificial intelligence.You know; their computers, their play stations, their Furbys. I hate those creepy little monsters...
The Furbys- not your kids.

Snack Recommendation: Spinach and Coffee.


Official A.I. Site

Starring: Haley Joel Osment, Jude Law, Frances O'Connor, Sam Robards, Jake Thomas, and William Hurt

Directed by: Steven Spielberg


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