Don't be fooled by the short title: A.I. is a long movie.
In fact, it's possible that there hasn't been as long a movie with so short a title in movie history. A.I. is 145 minutes long, which is 72 ½ minutes per letter in the title. A larger "per letter" ratio you will be hard pressed to find, at least for movies that aren't named after a single letter of the alphabet. The upcoming "O" will obviously give A.I. a run for its money, for instance.
But by any method of measurement or comparison you'd like to use, A.I. is a long movie.
So what do you get when you arrive and spend nearly 2 1/2 hours of your life in front of the screen?
A.I. is the story of David, a robot child with the ability to love. Sadly, David's entire existence just proves what J. Geils has been saying for twenty years: Love Stinks. David is brought home and introduced to a family whose son is cryogenically frozen due to an incurable illness. Naturally, once it's too late to send David back to the shop, the son gets cured and David becomes expendable. So his loving mother dumps him of in the middle of nowhere and tells him to run away. He spends the rest of the movie trying to find her again, dragging his robotic teddy bear behind him with all the determination of a pint-sized Terminator.
This movie takes place in a dark and dismal future. Greenhouse gases have caused the ruination of our climate (You listening Mr. Bush?). The ice caps have melted, but have only partially covered the world with water (I guess there wasn't as much water stored in the caps in this movie than there was in Waterworld). Robots, or mechas as they're called, are everywhere, but not everyone loves them. And so you get the bands of people who roam the countryside, picking up discarded mechas and destroying them in front of a live audience in a show with all the subtlety of a cock fight on Jolt Cola.
This is not a happy-happy, joy-joy feel good Spielberg flick. Anyone expecting E.T. 2 can just go sit in the back of the class. This is like if E.T. came to Earth but never found Elliot, instead wandered aimlessly through the urban wasteland of America before finally being turned into the mystery meat in a school lunch. This is Close Encounters if the Aliens were right out of Predator and Richard Dreyfuss burned Teri Garr to the ground. This is a tale of love, and all that that implies.
Haley Joel Osment is David. The kid who became famous by seeing dead people returns to see dead robots, among other things. He's fine in the "look at me Ma, I'm acting" sort of way. The kid's all of 12 or 13, so the fact that you actually get a complete performance out of him is more than enough to earn accolades. However, the best performance on screen is turned in by Jude Law, who plays Gigolo Joe, the mecha love machine. He's hip, he's sexy, all the girls will want their own Jude Law sex toy for Christmas.
The real star of this movie is the production itself. This looks amazing. Everything a sci-fi nut could want and more. Amazing cityscapes, astonishing technology, gadgets and gizmos galore. You name it, we got it. Between this flick and Moulin Rouge, everyone else can just forget about all those art direction-type awards, they're already claimed.
Now as just about everyone knows, this film was going to be a Stanley Kubrick film. But then Kubrick passed away, and the project moved over to Spielberg's camp. Steven does his best to honor his fallen comrade and has, for all intents and purposes, made a Stanley Kubrick flick. Which is what pretty much nobody was expecting. As you watch this film, you begin to understand that Steven made exactly the film he wanted to make, and he really doesn't give a rootin-tootin cowboy minute what anyone else thinks. Of course, being Spielberg, he can't help but add a few touches that Stanley would never have included, and the end result is something between the two worlds. There are fractions of Spielberg's warm-fuzziness which shine through the Kubrick intellectual chill, but they are not welcome. If you are going to enjoy this film, you need to prepare yourself for the arctic winter of a Stanley Kubrick vision, and those darned Spielbergisms break you out of your journey. I love Chris Rock as much as the next guy, but his amusing cameo completely jars you away from the story. Next time, keep him in Pootie Tang and cut the line.
So is it a good movie? Maybe. It's not a Spielberg film, it's not a Kubrick film. It's a Spubrik film. And we all know what those are like, right?
A.I. gets 3 1/5 Babylons. That's 1 3/5 Babylons per letter in the title. And that's as it should be.
In all of the legitimate reviews I've read of A.I., I've never seen it referred to as a "Spubrik" film. Clever, but I know for a fact that the SMC is still lame.
Directed By: Alan Smithee. No, I'm serious, Alan Smithee. Not buying it? OK, fine. It's Ang Lee. No? Look, do you even need me to tell you? I mean I mention it about a thousand times in the review. If you're so interested, you can go back and look it up.
Starring: Haley Joel Osment, Jude Law, William Hurt and Teddy Ruxpin.