Directed by Jonathan Mostow. Starring Bruce Willis, Radha Mitchell, Ving Rhames, Rosamund Pike, James Cromwell, Boris Kodjoe. (2009, PG-13, 89 min.)
REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., Oct. 2, 2009
In a Philip K. Dickian twist on Ram Dass' "Be here now" slogan and thanks to robotic surrogates and fancy tanning-bed/Barcalounger virtual reality units, the characters in this sublimely silly scrap of sci-fi filmmaking can be somewhere else now. And, more to the point, they can also be someone else now, while the real deals recline in dark rooms in increasing stages of emotional and physical isolation. Long live the new flesh? Not in this ridiculous and badly conceived flip side to David Cronenberg's Videodrome; it's a wonder the few actual "human" characters we get to see aren't covered with bedsores and suffering from serious immune system failure. Willis is a Boston FBI agent who uncovers a plot by bot manufacturing megacorporation VCI (or possibly by the jaundiced old duffer played by Cromwell or rogue elements in the FBI itself) to kill billions of people in their homes by frying the circuits of their robotic surrogates. "But why?" you ask. Although the script (adapted from the graphic novel) by Michael Ferris and John Brancato tries mighty hard to make a compelling argument along the quasi-Luddite lines of "sexy robots bad; ugly humans good," it's nothing that hasn't been done countless times before, from Rod Serling's original Twilight Zone ("Number 12 Looks Just Like You," penned by sci-fi legend Charles Beaumont) to WALL-E. Surrogates' morality is less Asimov than asinine, although it's bizarrely reassuring, in a nihilistic sort of way, to believe that in the future, when the world is ready to play The Sims for real (so to speak), our avatars are all going to look like generic porn stars with shitty airbrush jobs.