DOES “A.I.” STAND FOR “AUTHENTIC IDIOCY?”

THE CRITIC DOCTOR EXAMINES: Roger Ebert (Chicago Sun-Times), Dr J. (Dr J At The Movies), Susan Granger (SusanGranger.com), Adam J. Hakari (ajhakari.com), Susan Stark (Detroit News), Matt Easterbrook (home.istar.ca/~matte/ai.htm), James Berardinelli (reelviews.net), Chris Gore (filmthreat.com), John Anderson (Newsday.com), David Forsmark (Credo) ^ * * out of 4 Stars (PG-13)
The trailer for A.I.: Artificial Intelligence looked interesting. Even more intriguing is that Steven Spielberg was handed this project from the late Stanley Kubrick, director of “2001: A Space Odyssey.” A.I. may have origins from two popular Hollywood directors, but was it a good film?
A.I. is a movie about a small boy named David (Haley Joel Osment). David is a Mecha – or in simple terms a machine. This life-like kid was created by Professor Hobby (William Hurt) and was the first to be programmed to love human parents. It won’t take programming to get the audience and critics to love Osment’s performance.
– “One of the best actors now working. His David is not a cute little boy but a cute little boy mecha; we get not the lovable kid from ‘The Sixth Sense’ but something subtly different.” Roger Ebert (Chicago Sun-Times) ^ — “Osment proves ‘The Sixth Sense’ was no fluke, delivering a nuanced and often moving performance.” Dr J. (Dr J At The Movies) ^ — “Haley Joel Osment is truly amazing.” Susan Granger (SusanGranger.com) ^ — “He is not only a capable child actor, he’s one of the best current performers in film.” Adam J. Hakari (ajhakari.com) ^ — “May well earn Osment his second Oscar nomination (after ‘The Sixth Sense’) as well as a place in the record books as the youngest actor ever to be so honored by two performances achieved before he reached teen status (he turned 13 April 10).” Susan Stark (Detroit News)
Unfortunately, even Osment couldn’t save this boring, weird film. It’s hard to buy into the idea of artificial intelligence. As I stated in my review of “Bicentennial Man,” a better story would be about a human turning into a machine – then we might care about the character. I’d rather watch a high-tech remake of “The Six Million Dollar Man” than a 90 million dollar story about a machine trying to become human. A.I. should really stand for “Authentic Idiocy.”
Matt Easterbrook (home.istar.ca/~matte/ai.htm) said, “In spite (or maybe because) of its schizophrenic nature, I thought ‘A.I.’ didn’t suck.” Well, it did suck, Matt. Even the critics themselves appear schizophrenic. Many negative reviews of the film were given high ratings (3 stars or the equivalent thereof). You’d almost think Mecha movie critics (programmed to love this film) issued the star ratings!
Roger Ebert gave it 3 stars (out of 4) and said the film “miscalculates,” “misses the real story,” “is a failure to really engage the ideas that it introduces” and “has mastered the artificial and not the intelligence.”
James Berardinelli (reelviews.net) gave the movie 3 stars (out of 4) and said “A.I.” is “something of a disappointment,” “disjointed and uneven,” “suffers from a case of split personality, can’t seem to make up its mind,” has “underdeveloped potential and truncated subplots,” and “plot threads are dropped at an alarming rate.”
Berardinelli also said, “Spielberg attempts too much with ‘A.I.’ To some degree, by trying to tackle all of these issues, he fails to effectively present any of them.”
For the love of God, Berardinelli! Which one of you wrote the review? Jekyll or Hyde? How can a star rating be so out of sync with the content of a review? What is it about “A.I.” that critics cannot award a rating that matches their negative review?
Chris Gore (filmthreat.com) wrote a mostly “positive” review of the movie and said, “Though the film is far from perfect, (mainly Spielberg’s clunky writing and that final third), merely the attempt to explore true science fiction themes makes A.I. admirable.”
Maybe that’s it! Are critics rating the “idea” – the attempt to create true Sci-Fi? Still – that doesn’t make a bad film good. It appears critics are trying to be honest – pointing out both “positives” and “negatives.” But something is holding them back from giving an accurate rating that matches their review. Essentially, they’re saying, “Crappy film equals 3 stars out of 4.” Give me a break!
John Anderson (Newsday.com) said about “A.I.,” “Add or subtract stars at your pleasure. And the four stars accompanying this review aren’t really a testament to anything but how frivolous and arbitrary assigning stars to movies is.” Frivolous? Arbitrary? If you’re just going to pick stars at random because they are of little importance, John, then drop your rating system!
Maybe some critics refuse to give “A.I.” a low rating because of Stanley Kubrick. Dare we step on this man’s toes when they are now buried 6 feet under? Kubrick himself may be somewhere thinking, “The film sucked! Why didn’t I make it when I was alive!”
The fact is – Spielberg made it. Imagine how difficult it must have been to try and direct a movie with a dead person. I say this respectfully. Spielberg obviously did this in honor of Kubrick. But the two directors are very different artists. It’s no wonder terms like “schizophrenic,” “uneven” and “split personality” surfaced in reviews.
David Forsmark (Credo) summed the movie up best: “Tack on the most arbitrary, ponderous, and pretentious coda in recent memory, and ‘A.I.’ will have you leaving the theater shaking your head in disbelief. Despite the critics’ fawning, look for bad word of mouth to sink ‘A.I’ pretty quickly.”
“A.I” may have attempted to explore true science fiction, but an “attempt” doesn’t make a bad movie good. Nor does it qualify a negative written review to award the film 3 stars (or the equivalent).
I liked the intelligent reviews, but not the artificial ratings.
–CRITIC DOCTOR




Posted on July 19, 2001 in Features by
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