Underground Film Journal

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Movie Review: A.I.: Artificial Intelligence

I want to start this out by saying that I’m not someone who should be giving advice to parents about how to raise their kids, mainly because I’m not a parent myself, nor am I particularly planning to become one.

A.I.: ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE, if you don’t know and I don’t know how you couldn’t, is about a robot “boy” who is adopted by a family in some not-too-distant future world. A husband and wife’s own son has been cryogenically frozen due to having contracted a fatal illness, so they agree to test out the first robotic child ever produced which is also the first robot that has been programmed to “love”.

But things turn screwy when a cure for the frozen kid’s illness is found. So, he gets defrosted and rejoins his family. Of course, upon his return the artificial brat becomes a burden and a pest, so his adoptive mother dumps her artificial child in the woods to fend for himself, kind of like when certain people tire of their pet dogs or cats.

What happens after that doesn’t really matter because it’s a pretty sucky movie, with one of the absolutely worst endings ever produced, matched only by maybe the end of Abel Ferrara’s 1998 NEW ROSE HOTEL, which I just also saw recently and happens to be on my mind. But whereas HOTEL stretches itself out to feature-length by tacking on a frustrating 20-minute flashback sequence of scenes we already saw in the movie, A.I. adds a grueling, unnecessary 20-minutes coda to an already ponderously long film. The only thing that the ending to A.I. reveals is that director Steven Spielberg is afflicted with a deep-seated, severe and severely disturbing Oedipus complex.

Tho’, as I said, I don’t have any kids myself, but I do take mental notes of the various parenting “techniques” that I see when I encounter families in public areas. Mostly because the way I see many parents treat their children absolutely horrifies me.

I do know good and/or great parents. I have a couple of friends about my age or a little older who seem to absolutely love their kids. I also work right next to a new father who positively beams when his wife brings the baby in for a visit and whenever I hear anybody ask him how the kid’s doing words fail him to describe what joy it is to be a parent.

But fuck that.

Being the mean-spirited and cynical prick that I am, I’d rather share the mean-spirited and cynical opinions and stories I have than write about any goodness I see in the world.

I do know kids come into this world either one of two ways: planned or by “accident”. But no matter how they’re popped out, most mothers love their babies and I’m pretty sure most dads do, too, except I’m always shocked at my “real” job, where I do the Talk Show Highlights pages, at how many daytime talk shows do episodes like “I Am Not Your Baby’s Father!” In any given week, there are at least three-dozen DNA tests given on talk shows to prove or disprove a man’s paternity.

Anyway, parents’ attitudes towards their kids tend to change right about when they go from being a totally dependent baby and start exhibiting signs of being an actual person with an actual personality. When the thing’s a baby, the parent is like, “I was up until 3 a.m. because the baby wouldn’t stop crying, but isn’t she beautiful?” But as soon as the kid starts talking, the situation becomes, “My fucking kid wouldn’t stop crying, so I had to buy her another goddamn Barbie doll just to shut her the fuck up.”

I’m also quite horrified by the amount of child abuse I see in public. Recently I saw a woman whack her son on the arm with the spine of one of those super-thick coloring books, then beat him over the head with it a couple times. Why? Because he didn’t feel like coloring in it while on a bus trip like she wanted him to.

Just before that, while waiting in line to get on the bus, I watched a woman violently shake her nine-or-so-year-old daughter by the arm while screaming at her, “Where did you pack it! Where did you pack it!” Then, the mother ran off to lord knows where, leaving not just the one kid alone but also her other two-or-so-year-old daughter. There they were, left alone in the Port Authority bus terminal, a nine-year-old taking care of a two-year-old. I shudder at what must go on in their home.

My favorite one, tho’, was on the subway the other weekend. A young girl, maybe 6 or thereabouts, was whining and begging her mother for some candy that the mom had in her purse. The mother lifted her finger, wagged it in her daughter’s face and exclaimed, “I’m going to fuck you up!” Then, of course she gave her kid the candy anyway. But I guess if you’re going to “fuck” your kid up, you might as well give her the candy.

But parents do get my sympathies because I’m sure it can’t be easy raising children in a selfish, self-centered infantile society such as ours. So, if you’re a parent, to you I say, “Good luck!”