Sunday, July 18, 2010

THE LAWNMOWER MAN (1992) - the state of virtual reality post Nintendo's Power Glove

Poor Jenny Wright attempts to breathe life into a paper thin southern sexpot role. At least we get to see some of her sexpottery at work.

I saw this one in the theater during its initial theatrical run, and as a video game nerd at the time, I was more than a little impressed with the virtual reality technology of the whole thing. Rewatching it now, no longer capable of being distracted by shiny 3D graphics, I am left with a giant pile of garbage. I know this movie has a decent reputation, and I can usually find something to hang my hat on in most genre fare, but Christ on a stick this movie blows. I mean, why not just run with the title concept and have a guy mow grass and leave it at that. How does he work his way around a bush resting in the middle of the lawn? Should he bother to bend over and pick up the candy wrapper, or just plow through it like a mad man? Instead of these (very) vaguely interesting concepts, we are left with a bunch of VR related foolishness.

So, you need to fill roles for a brilliant computer scientist and a local retard gardener. Let's see...I know! We'll hire Pierce Brosnan and Jeff Fahey, respectively. Ummm...okay. Presumably, the casting director wanted to hire actors who might actually convey their characters, and maybe come across as believable in their roles. Therefore, I have to assume that these casting decisions were mandated by the studio. Some suit came barging into a room, screaming "YOU'RE FUCKING CASTING BROSNAN AND FAHEY! WITH THESE TWO ON BOARD, WE'RE GONNA BE ABLE TO SELL THE SHIT OUT OF THIS PIECE OF GARBAGE! NOW...WHERE'S MY FUCKING LATTE?!?!". Not only that, but Fahey has the worst simpleton farm idiot costume in film history. Forrest Gump would be ashamed of this asshole (if he had any shame).

Well, Fahey takes care of Pierce's lawn (hence the title), living the life of a content dimwit. Pierce is working on some sort of experimental virtual reality, and uses Fahey as a guinea pig (this experiment also apparently involves drugs). Well, Jeff becomes smarter and smarter as a result, developing telekinesis along the way (and even developing the where with all to fix his fucked up hair). On top of that, it turns him all studly and what not, and he quickly hooks up with local southern harlot Jenny Wright. After all, as my perverted uncle always said, if there is grass on the field...mow the lawn.

So, not only did Brosnan invent the first completely immersive virtual reality system, but he also invented a machine that will grow people's brains, rendering them super smart and even giving them psychic powers. Oh yeah, it also helps you get laid. Yet Pierce works out of his basement with little fanfare. Me thinks he needs an agent.

The entire film is built on the moral quandary of whether someone should be allowed to have supreme intelligence, and the potential disasters that can result from such intellect fueled megalomania. However, this entire concept was handled infinitely better (and with actual plausibility) in 2001: A Space Odyssey with HAL, and also wasn't the entire crux of the story. Here, this concept doesn't hold up in any scientific sense nor in a narrative logistic sense, and the character could not be more poorly written. Fahey cannot convey a farm simpleton to begin with, and no one would act the way he does with each new brain boost. He essentially plays a video game and turns into a super intelligent James Bond villain. First of all,
why the fuck would playing a game even have this effect? Where is all of the conflict and fear that comes with someone experiencing a mysterious increase of intelligence? After all, if Forrest Gump woke up one morning with even average intelligence, I think he would be pretty fucking confused by such a monumental change.

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