© 2009 Gaumont

Splice (2009)

How could a film with some rather interesting ideas turn out to be such an unsatisfying viewing experience? The mind baffles. I am also shocked that no less a publication than The New York Times gave this a glowing review.

In summary: a couple who both work as genetic engineers have been assigned the project creating new life forms to supply genetic materials for livestock vaccines. When they add a bit a human DNA to the mix, they get a humanoid creature they hide from their bosses. They do not have the heart to kill it to harvest its stem cells, and as maternal instincts take over they decide to raise it as their daughter. They question they ethics of keeping the creature alive versus the morality of killing a living thing just because it is different. As they are attempting to raise an only partially human creature as their daughter, there are bound to be teething troubles.

The summary of Splice is rather interesting, the film itself, however, is something different all together. Adrien Brody and Sarah Polley play rock star scientist who have appeared on the cover of Wired magazine, and rock out when they are sequencing DNA. Brody in particular is emo to the extremo, with a seemingly endless supply of design T-shirts, military patches on his lab coat, and manga art in his apartment. Their names, Clive and Elsa, are taken from the actors who play Doc Frankenstein and the Bride in Bride of Frankenstein, a supposedly clever references which adds exactly nothing to this film. His younger brother, who also works at the lab and is the only other person who knows about the hybrid creature, looks and talks exactly like Jack White of the White Stripes. They name their kid Dren (“nerd” backwards, gettit?), and struggle with the pressures of parenthood. The plot turns are clumsy and predictable from a mile away. Elsa’s scientific objectivity gives way to maternal instincts at the drop of a hat. When it becomes clear that Dren is getting too big to hide in the basement of the lab, Elsa, who has been in a relationship with Clive for eight years, tells him they can take her to her farm. “You own a farm?” he asks. While the mix of CG work and a child and adult actresses to create Dren are seamless, it is never really explained why, for example, she is able to instantly sprout wings when she needs to fly.

I felt sorry for the two principle actors. Sarah Polley used to be in films I like, such as My Life Without Me and The Sweet Hereafter. Adrien Brody, who won an Oscar less than 10 years ago, has been reduced to roles that require him to drop his drawers and screw non-human life forms.

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