Monday, May 9, 2016

I'd Love to Turn You On At the Movies #140 - Multiplicity (1996, dir. Harold Ramis)

Doug 2 (talking on the phone with Doug 1) “Who the hell is this?”
Doug 1 “It’s me, it’s you know, it’s you, it’s us. You know who it is”

Have you ever wondered what it would be like if you could clone yourself and be able to literally be in two places at once? While you’re at it why not make it three places at once, or four for that matter! If you answered yes to that query then I have the movie for you. Harold Ramis’ comedy from 1996, Multiplicity, explores the real world consequences of just such a situation. This popcorn flick is quite possibly one of the most entertaining and overlooked masterpieces of 90’s comedy.

The story follows Doug Kinney (Michael Keaton), an overworked contractor who is having serious issues juggling his work life, his family life, and his desperate need for alone time. Right from the beginning of the film Doug is being forced into taking on even more than he was currently doing. He’s missing milestone events in his children’s lives. He can’t keep an eye on all of his issues at work. His wife, Laura (Andie MacDowell), isn’t happy with the amount of time he has to spend with her and the kids, and he can’t seem to fix the water heater. As his life is fumbling toward a train wreck – one that I think we can all relate to – a solution presents itself at the Gemini Institute. He’s working on a renovation of a scientific research facility when he has a bit of a breakdown. After his meltdown he's approached by a scientist who, after listening to his problems for a brief moment, offers him a “miracle.” He offers to clone him which could give him the “miracle of time” by basically Xeroxing him.

With very little coaxing Doug is completely on board and after a brief science montage Doug 2 is born. The first interaction between the two is the gloriously comedic grappling with the question of which which is which? Who is the real Doug? On the first day with Doug 2, Doug finds that his clone has taken the initiative and control of his job, giving him the time to watch his son play football (even ending up coaching), cook dinner, and even some extra time to spend with his wife. After a month or so Doug realizes that while Doug 2 goes to work he is basically doing all of the house work and keeping the kids under control, which is still leaving him with no alone time and he is just as stressed out as before. The first clone worked out so well that Doug decides that life could be even better with another clone, thus Doug 3 is brought into the picture. Just as before, this new clone takes more pressure off of Doug, but it isn't long before the logistics of having more than one of himself catches up with him and everything starts to spiral out of control quickly (and hilariously) and Doug starts to wonder where he fits into this new life.

One of the strengths of the film is the fact that although it is a comedy, it does tackle the existential questions that arise from the concept of cloning fairly well. As we get to know the clones a little better they seem to be representations of certain parts of Doug's psyche; his masculine side, his feminine side, etc. While the clones are copies of Doug they seem to be more segmented aspects of Doug’s entire personality, and thus they execute Doug's life the way that that part of his inner dialogue would, which creates a variety of interesting and hilarious issues for Doug.

While the premise and the execution of the narrative are fantastic, the real power of the film lies in the acting, more specifically Michael Keaton's insane ability to play four (yes four - you will have to see the movie to find out...) different aspects of the same character. As far as the other actors and actresses, Andie MacDowell is fantastic as Doug's wife Laura, Harris Yulin is perfect as the somewhat hair-brained "mad" genetic scientist, John de Lancie is completely annoying as Doug’s work nemesis Ted, and Eugene Levy provides some amazing humor and levity as the constantly tardy and haphazard contractor Vic. While all of these supporting characters are superbly crafted and well-acted the true power of the film lies in Michael Keaton’s ability to sell all of the different clones and the original Doug. Keaton’s portrayal of the different Dougs is fascinating and captivating, by creating subtle differences within each clone's character they truly start to become their own separate person and it is crazy to watch!

An art film Multiplicity is not, but if you are a fan of any of Harold Ramis' work - Caddyshack (1980), Ghostbusters (1984), or Groundhog Day (1993) (to name a few of his masterpieces) - or any number of other amazing comedies that he wrote and/or directed, then this is a film to be missed at your own peril. Multiplicity is a perfectly executed comedic journey through the trials and tribulations of dealing with cloning in order to have more time. It sounds outlandish, but in execution you barely think about just how ridiculous the entire concept is because the issues are just too easy to relate to, and I can't recommend this film enough! So pick it up and learn the answers to all of the logistical questions that arise from literally being able to be in two or more places at once!

-         Edward Hill

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