Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB
USA, 2001. Warner Bros., DreamWorks, Amblin Entertainment, Stanley Kubrick Productions. Screen story by Ian Watson, Screenplay by Steven Spielberg, based on the short story Supertoys Last All Summer Long by Brian Aldiss. Cinematography by Janusz Kaminski. Produced by Bonnie Curtis, Kathleen Kennedy, Steven Spielberg. Music by John Williams. Production Design by Rick Carter. Costume Design by Bob Ringwood. Film Editing by Michael Kahn.
Reasonably interesting futuristic version of Pinocchio has Steven Spielberg filling in for the late great Stanley Kubrick, who intended this as his next project after Eyes Wide Shut. Spielberg’s screenplay (his first penned alone since his Academy Award-nominated Close Encounters of the Third Kind) follows the plight of a young robot boy (Haley Joel Osment) created in a not-too-distant future to be a replacement for the child a lonely couple (Frances O’Connor, Sam Robards) have lost to a seemingly never-ending coma.
Unfortunately, their real son’s coma does end, and when he comes home there seems to be no room for this artificially created child. The pint-sized android sets off on a journey to find the blue fairy of the aforementioned Italian fable, who can turn him into a real boy and gain him the love of his mother; along the way he meets Gigolo Joe (Jude Law, Osment’s fellow Academy Award nominee for Best Supporting Actor in 1999), a pleasure-model android who helps him on his quest.
Spielberg’s style of filmmaking is definitely not one to be mistaken for Kubrick’s, and the clash of two cinematic perspectives is quite evident here, but what really keeps the film from achieving its greatness is how much Spielberg tries to emulate his late mentor. A more personal film wouldn’t feel so detached from the story’s more emotional moments, but as it is the film, like its main character, is far too desperate for our admiration and praise. Spielberg tries very hard for a Kubrickian mellow and methodical pace, but the plodding movement and low energy keep anything possibly interesting dampened.
Spielberg does, however, create some very memorable moments visually, including an ocean-submerged Manhattan and a colourful android metropolis of hedonistic pleasure called Rouge City. The visual effects are truly awe-inspiring, as is Janusz Kaminski’s gorgeous photography, but the bland story relies so heavily on them that you feel you’ve been treated to nothing more than a gadgets-and-gizmos show of technical wizardry. Great performances, especially by Osment, but a very unaffecting film about (Kubrick’s favourite theme of) dehumanization.
Academy Award Nominations: Best Visual Effects; Best Original Score
Golden Globe Award Nominations: Best Supporting Actor (Jude Law); Best Director (Steven Spielberg); Best Original Score