July 19, 1996 in Seven

Four Keatons Mix Up Priorities

Chris Hewitt St. Paul Pioneer Press
 

If we’re going to start cloning actors, there are worse choices than Michael Keaton (Joe Pesci and Laura Dern spring to mind).

Keaton, who appears to have picked up a few noneating habits from real-life ex-girlfriend Courteney Cox, plays a harried contractor who clones himself in “Multiplicity.” Soon, there are four Keatons - the original, one that emphasizes his macho side, one that’s in touch with his femininity and one who’s just a boob. Andie MacDowell is also on board to murmur reassuringly and to have sex with all four Keatons.

“Multiplicity” is at its best when the clones interact with each other and find themselves forced to lie to get out of scrapes. This identicalumny is pretty funny, and Keaton does a dandy job of differentiating among the knockoffs. Although his performances aren’t as funny or vivid as Eddie Murphy’s overtime work in “The Nutty Professor,” Keaton makes acting with himself look easy.

The thing is, if you subtract Keaton, “Multiplicity” is left with zero. It’s a likable movie and an occasionally amusing one, but everywhere you look, there are hints that it could be better. MacDowell’s character, for instance, is a complete add-on. The movie throws her a bone, giving her one funny line in her first scene, and then she spends the rest of the time pouting and asking her husband if she can have a job, pretty please.

“Multiplicity’s” sexual politics date roughly to the era of cyclamates and Dacron, which you can either choose to ignore or choose to find creepy. Either way, you have to wonder what’s going on when Keaton’s erratic behavior leads MacDowell to move out of the house (she doesn’t know about the clones), but it never even occurs to Keaton to tell the woman he loves the truth. This stuff is handled sloppily, and the presence of MacDowell and director Harold Ramis is a constant reminder of “Groundhog Day,” which took a similarly fanciful premise and made it into a believable comic gem.

You could argue that I’m taking this genial comedy too seriously, but, particularly in its rather glum early scenes, it asks us to. “Multiplicity” means to be a comic look at one man learning to get his priorities straight, but so many of the details are wrong - Keaton and MacDowell’s now-you-see-them-now-you-don’t children, the fact that the original Keaton spends his newfound free time at the golf course instead of at home, the curious absence of friends or neighbors in MacDowell and Keaton’s life - that you can’t help thinking that the movie has its priorities screwed up, too.

MEMO: These sidebars appeared with the story: “MULTIPLICITY” Locations: East Sprague, Newport and Coeur d’Alene Credits: Directed by Harold Ramis, starring Michael Keaton, Andie MacDowell Running time: 1:50 Rating: PG-13

OTHER VIEWS Here’s what other critics say about “Multiplicity:” Michael H. Price/Fort Worth Star-Telegram: Michael Keaton abounds delightfully in Harold Ramis’ “Multiplicity,” a contrived blend of screwball farce with science-fantasy. The film overall is merely clever at best, but Keaton’s comic mastery remains intact. Kenneth Turan/Los Angeles Times: “Multiplicity” is the latest film to benefit from the unprecedented visual miracles that special effects can now produce. It is also one more example of a picture where technical inventiveness outstrips the pedestrian storyline it’s meant to animate. Duane Byrge/The Hollywood Reporter: … this summer pic is a frothy summer tonic for frazzled suburbanites who feel their lives are overextended. Philip Wuntch/Dallas Morning News: Michael Keaton gallops through “Multiplicity” even as the movie stalls. Steven Rea/Philadelphia Inquirer: Forget “The Cable Guy.” Forget “The Nutty Professor.” This summer’s bona-fide neo-Jerry Lewis movie - a slapsticky, pratfalling, goofball fantasy - hails from the man who hung up his Bat cowl and body armor and has resumed acting with his whole face, not just his jaw.

These sidebars appeared with the story: “MULTIPLICITY” Locations: East Sprague, Newport and Coeur d’Alene Credits: Directed by Harold Ramis, starring Michael Keaton, Andie MacDowell Running time: 1:50 Rating: PG-13

OTHER VIEWS Here’s what other critics say about “Multiplicity:” Michael H. Price/Fort Worth Star-Telegram: Michael Keaton abounds delightfully in Harold Ramis’ “Multiplicity,” a contrived blend of screwball farce with science-fantasy. The film overall is merely clever at best, but Keaton’s comic mastery remains intact. Kenneth Turan/Los Angeles Times: “Multiplicity” is the latest film to benefit from the unprecedented visual miracles that special effects can now produce. It is also one more example of a picture where technical inventiveness outstrips the pedestrian storyline it’s meant to animate. Duane Byrge/The Hollywood Reporter: … this summer pic is a frothy summer tonic for frazzled suburbanites who feel their lives are overextended. Philip Wuntch/Dallas Morning News: Michael Keaton gallops through “Multiplicity” even as the movie stalls. Steven Rea/Philadelphia Inquirer: Forget “The Cable Guy.” Forget “The Nutty Professor.” This summer’s bona-fide neo-Jerry Lewis movie - a slapsticky, pratfalling, goofball fantasy - hails from the man who hung up his Bat cowl and body armor and has resumed acting with his whole face, not just his jaw.


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