Thursday, February 22, 2018

Movie #448: Multiplicity

Multiplicity is a mid-90s comedy starring a seriously overworked Michael Keaton, Andie MacDowell, Harris Yulin, Richard Masur, Eugene Levy, Ann Cusack, and John de Lancie.

Doug Kinney (Keaton) is a contractor and construction supervisor who works too much, has no time for his loving wife Laura (MacDowell) or his kids (Zack Duhame and Katie Schossberg), or to complete the projects he's started on his house. On a job, he meets a fellow named Dr. Leeds (Yulin) who promises him a miracle, but what Leeds does is make clones.

I want to detour here and talk about the cloning as depicted in this movie. The clones Leeds produces are exact duplicates of a person at the time of cloning, meaning that cloning a 35-year-old Doug means you don't get an embryonic Doug, you get another 35-year-old Doug with the same memories up to the point of cloning. That means that the cloning process is so exact that it's created perfect replicas of the subjects brain cells, but that's just the tip of the iceberg. Say Doug injured his knee playing football in college. Does the clone still feel the ache when it rains? If it does, it's that because of stress on the knee or just the memory of the pain? The mind boggles.

(Or I could be overthinking this and screenwriter, Chris Miller, who also wrote Animal House, may have just taken a very Saturday morning cartoon approach to cloning. Either/or.)

Anyway, Doug's clone takes over the work, leaving Doug to help with the kids, but he finds that overwhelming because he hasn't been doing it for years so it's basically like having a totally new job, so he gets another clone to do that, but then discovers that not only is managing three clones (because the clones make a clone to do chores at home, more on that later) impossible, but now he's getting frozen out of his own life. Eventually Laura leaves him, he pulls his head out of his ass, fixes up his house, and the clones hit the trails.

OK. I am about to give this movie more analysis than it deserves. Ignore the science for a moment. Ignore the fact that not only do the clones' personalities diverge from Doug-prime, but they do so immediately and radically (Three, f'rex, is made to help with home and family stuff and becomes not only good at it, where Doug was terrible, but weirdly effeminate). Even ignore the quasi-offensive Four (he's "special", you see, because he's the clone of a clone, which makes literally no goddamn sense). Let's talk about some other shit.

Laura has sex with all three clones in the same night. She has sex with all three clones in the same night thinking they're all Doug. Now, we've established at this point in the movie that Laura has noticed that Doug is acting strange (because she's interacting with three different Dougs; not so much Four, but we'll get to that), but she apparently gets kinda caught up here. To put it extremely fucking mildly, this plays a bit fast and loose with the topic of consent, dunnit, but that's never addressed, and in fact Laura closes out the movie seeing a car full of Dougs and not acknowledging it (not that "my husband cloned himself" is a reasonable position to have come to, granted).

And then there's minor logistical stuff, like how is their family's budget coping with suddenly feeding three extra people, one of whom eats literally nonstop? Does Laura not notice this? Either she doesn't notice that the food bills have gone through the roof, that Doug is suddenly going through three times as many pairs of underwear, and that there's a charge to the local mini-mart every day (Two says he gets his dinner there every night), or Doug's been doing the finances all along and is find this money somewhere. Sure, the movie starts with Laura going back to work and she's doing well, but still.

Anyway, plot weirdness and uncomfortable stuff aside, the movie has funny moments. Keaton is a gifted comic actor, and he does well imbuing the clones with their own personality (though it's better when it's more subtle, like the play between Doug-prime and Two, than with the over-the-top Three and Four). MadDowell, as Daniel O'Brien points out here, got tricked by magic a lot in the 90s and that's really her only function here, although he's at least a well-enough realized character that you remember she's there, unlike basically every other supporting character in this movie. In general, though, it's not one of Ramis' better ones.

My Grade: C-
Rewatch Value: Low

Next up: The Mummy