Main cast: Haley Joel Osment (David Swinton), Jude Law (Gigolo Joe), Frances O’Connor (Monica Swinton), and William Hurt (Prof Hobby)
Director: Steven Spielberg
Is Steven Spielberg still living on this planet or is he now playing with Michael Jackson in Planet Never Never Land? A.I. is a movie about a boy’s prepubescent, murderous Oedipal lust for his mother. To top it off, this boy is a robot. And what does Mr Spielberg think this movie is actually all about?
“I love my Mommy, my Mommy loves me, we are one big famileee…”
The story is about this Professor guy, who, long after the polar caps have melted and the Earth is pretty much buried under water, decides to create a grand robot, or “mecha”. Previously, mechas are created to do menial labors that humans have to forgo to survive. This Prof decides, hey, why not make a robot child that loves? Coming up: David. David’s guinea pig family is the Swintons, whose son is currently comatose from some disease. Mommy Monica slowly loves this unnatural robot child who keeps bursting in on her while she is sitting on the toilet bowl and tailing after her, but when her real son awakens and recovers from his illness, well, things get ugly. Until Monica finally abandons David in the woods.
David believes that, after listening to Mommy read him Pinocchio, he will be a real boy if he finds the Blue Fairy. And if he’s a real boy, Mommy will love him. So he goes, wandering into the real and dangerous world with nothing but a fugitive sex-mecha, Gigolo Joe, and a talking teddy bear to help him.
Oh, what A.I. could’ve been! I could see Stanley Kubrick and Brian Aldiss’s dark vision for this story surfacing in elusive glimmers underneath Mr Spielberg’s hack, third-grade love-and-kiddies shtick. This movie could have been all about the darker side of love and humanity. If this movie ended the moment David discovers the Blue Fairy, I would have even forgiven all the corny, saccharine yuckie-moments in the movie. But no, Mr Spielberg has to go on and on and on to put in some aliens nonsense, some rushed redemption that requires a narrator to pop in out of the blue, and a creepy reinforcement of Oedipal complex that would scare even Freud. It’s David and Mommy in the end, no Daddy, no brother, just mommyanddavidforevaandeva…
I have no problems with psychotic kiddies stalking their mommies and killing their rivals. But Mr Spielberg just have to put in unicorns and corny mecha-nannies and other Barney-esque kiddie stuff that I wonder if he even knows how dark the story he is working on. What is he smoking, man, to force a movie like A.I. into some science-fiction Barney adventure? It is not about love and kisses and Mommy’s love, it should be about the darker side of love and other human emotions.
Still, Gigolo Joe is amazing as Jude Law gives him most physical performance I’ve seen in a movie, and he steals the show more often than not. Haley Joel Osment is good too, and I don’t know who to commend for keeping his tears into a minimum (judging from the way Mr Spielberg crams his scripts with schmaltzy imageries of unicorns and nanny-love, I’d say the boy’s the one with the brain). And that talking, walking Teddy is adorable too. And Frances O’Connor’s portrayal of the conflicted mother is amazingly restrained despite the way her character is written.
Hence, A.I. is saved only by the great performances of its lead players. It’s a testament to their talents that this movie still mesmerizes despite Mr Spielberg’s best attempt to sabotage it by layering love and hugsies in a sickeningly thick layer of icing. If this movie is remarkable in any aspect, it’s remarkable as to how much it exposes Steven Spielberg’s inadequacy as a storyteller and director. Man, that man just doesn’t know how to restrain himself.