By John Mulderig | Catholic News Service
NEW YORK – The scientist who serves as the main character of the dull sci-fi misfire "Replicas" (Entertainment Studios) has clearly failed to heed the wisdom of Motown.
Had he done so, he would have known that – as Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell long ago taught us – there ain't nothing like the real thing. Instead he sets out to make Frankensteins of his own family.
Keanu Reeves is excruciatingly earnest in the role of biomedical researcher William Foster. After his wife, Mona (Alice Eve), and children, Sophie (Emily Alyn Lind), Matt (Emjay Anthony) and Zoe (Aria Lyric Leabu), are all killed in a car accident that he survives, William, who has been experimenting with injecting human consciousness into robots, barely has time for a boo-hoo or two before striking on the idea of making copies of the deceased.
To do so, he'll need the cooperation of his colleague and buddy Ed Whittle (Thomas Middleditch), a specialist in cloning. Ed will use the dead folks' DNA to replicate their bodies while William will transfer the mental data from the corpses to the retreads.
Unsurprisingly, William runs into some stumbling blocks. For starters, Ed only has enough "pods" (think giant fish tanks) to grow three new bodies. So William will have to decide which young actor will mercifully be spared any significant further participation in this fiasco of a movie.
Then there's William and Ed's hard-driving boss, Mr. Jones (John Ortiz). He keeps pressuring William to devote his attention to his so-far unsuccessful work or face having the multimillion-dollar project defunded.
Emotions remain shallow and moral themes underdeveloped as the plot plods along toward a ridiculous, conspiracy-tinged climax. Early on, William gives a purely materialist description of human nature that contrasts with Mona's vaguely more spiritual view. And wary Ed declares that, by tinkering with life and death, both he and William will get themselves sent "straight to hell."
On a happier note, William eventually discovers the unity of mind and body. But nothing more comes of this philosophical breakthrough than resulted from the earlier patchwork pieces of dialogue.
Regardless of whether William succeeds in revivifying most of his household, as directed by Jeffrey Nachmanoff, "Replicas" is dead beyond recall.
The film contains brief violence with little gore, obscured rear and partial nudity, a few uses of profanity, at least one milder oath and much crude language. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III – adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13 – parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.
Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.