“Replicas” Distributed by Entertainment Studios Motion Pictures, 107 Minutes, Rated PG-13, Released January 11, 2018:
Ohhhhhhhhhhhhh, what a tangled web we weave...
A neuroscientist is working on a project involving the harvesting of human consciousness from recently deceased bodies and into alternative host vehicles--basically brain transplants into robots. But the doc can’t seem to work the ol’ bugs out of the procedure.
When his wife and kids are killed in a tragic auto accident, the scientist finds new inspiration for his research. He harvests his late family’s intellects onto big flash drives, transports them to his secret basement laboratory, and then not only resurrects his loved ones but also uses a soupy artificial means to clone their original bodies as hosts for their recovered psyches. He’s able to formulate the necessary technology and accomplish all of the above in seventeen days flat, but soon finds that his family's rebirth is only the beginning of his problems...
This is one movie that literally has to be seen to be believed. Destined to achieve immortality as a cult classic, “Replicas” is either the most ridiculous movie of the new millennium or a masterpiece of camp, depending on your threshold for absurdity. An over-the-top blend of science fiction and horror, the movie seems to play along the periphery of self-parody but somehow never quite manages to step over the line into flat out hilarity. The result is an unlikely combination of the 1962 midnight movie staple “The Brain That Wouldn’t Die” and 1985’s “Re-Animator,” with a heaping dose of “RoboCop” thrown in.
Keanu Reeves has always been an honest performer. Whether in the surprisingly enduring romantic sports comedy “The Replacements,” the popular “Matrix” trilogy, or the megahit action adventure classic “Speed,” the actor invariably displays a sort of urgent and earnest truthfulness that’s enormously attractive to movie audiences, particularly his legions of fans. Even as the vacant stoner in the “Bill and Ted” comedies, Reeves seemed to passionately pursue his own imbecilic cluelessness
In some weird way, this same sense of urgency works for the effectiveness of “Replicas.” In a role that cries out for a tortured and obsessed demeanor, Reeves instead conjures a sort of overwhelmed sincerity, making almost logical his character’s ability to steal every car battery in his upper-class neighborhood over the course of one single night--about sixty or so, it looks like--when he can’t find a place that sells generators at three AM. But the actor’s patented earnestness is almost enough to redefine at least temporarily our image of a cinematic mad scientist. Maybe "Replicas" was meant to be a comedy, but nobody told Keanu.
Playing the Igor to Reeves’ Dr. Frankenstein is the Canadian actor Thomas Middleditch, employing the same loopy, good-natured manner he uses in his ubiquitous TV appearances as the pitchman for Verizon Wireless. As an expert in human cloning, Middleditch possesses a pretzel logic that allows him to give issues of ethics and morality nary a thought, but fret that he and Reeves will get in trouble at work for swiping several million dollars’ worth of cutting edge medical equipment that looks like it came from 1957’s “The Curse of Frankenstein.” And they do get in trouble, but not for the reasons you’d expect.
Written by newcomers Chad St. John and Stephen Hamel and directed by “The Day After Tomorrow” filmmaker Jeffrey Nachmanoff, “Replicas” throws rational thought to the wind and, intentionally or not, infuses the film with enough plot holes, narrative silliness, continuity issues, and leaps of reason to delight connoisseurs of bad movies. Still, it’s never tedious or boring, it’s almost impossible to dislike, and you just can’t say it’s not entertaining.
Distributed by Entertainment Studios Motion Pictures, the independent film studio founded in 1993 by comic Byron Allen to “take the studio crumbs and make a gourmet meal,” “Replicas” is being marketed relentlessly over the television airwaves, with television commercials sometimes appearing twice or more during the same station breaks.
Entertainment Studios was hoping to earn a modest $7 million from the picture during its opening weekend in 2329 theaters across North America. In the end, including only $200,00 from Thursday night sneak previews, ”Replicas” grossed only $2.5 million during its first weekend in release, one of the worst all-time debuts among movies premiering in 2000-plus venues.
Unsurprisingly, “Replicas” is being blasted by the critics, earning an approval rating of just 9% from Rotten Tomatoes against an average score of 17% from Metacritic, both indicating “overwhelming dislike.” The entertainment newspaper Variety specifically notes the picture’s “cavernous plot holes, risible dialogue, and ludicrously illogical behavior.” Exit audiences polled by CinemaScore award “Replicas” a grade of C.
Also starring Alice Eve from 2013’s “Star Trek Into Darkness” and the always reliable John Ortiz, “Replicas’ is rated PG-13 for thematic material, violence, disturbing images, brief nudity, and sexual references. Warning: There’s a horrifyingly realistic automobile crash about twenty minutes into the picture, so be prepared to cover the eyes of the youngsters.