The late great film critic Gene Siskel had a simple test he used when evaluating movies: Is this movie more interesting than a documentary about the same actors having lunch? Most of the films that failed the test were bombs, naturally. And yet there have been a number of films in recent years that were mostly lauded by critics but, in my view, do not pass Siskels test. All of these films have a fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes and impressive pedigrees both in front of and behind the camera but simply did not grab me in the way I had hoped they would.
Artificial Intelligence is actually a far more apt title than Steven Spielberg probably intended. On its surface, it has some great acting, impressive visuals and an evocative score by John Williams. But dig a little deeper and you will run into some problems. What started out as a passion project of Stanley Kubricks ended up as a hybrid of his and Spielbergs filmmaking and philosophical sensibilities. And they simply do not mesh together as well as one might hope.
The story meanders from place to place and ultimately does not arrive at a satisfying conclusion. I would enjoy watching the likes of Jude Law, William Hurt, Robin Williams and Meryl Streep conversing over an all-you-can-eat buffet more than I do this film.
If you like wrestling, then this is probably the film for you but for the rest of us there is not much else here to hold our interest. The so what? factor came into play a lot as I watched this film and struggled to care about a troubled teen who is taken in by a cash-strapped family and gets to know his estranged grandfather. I felt like this story had been told countless times before, sometimes better and sometimes worse. There did not seem to be much of a reason for the film to exist and that left me longing to watch Paul Giamatti and Melanie Lynskey discuss the differences between America and New Zealand over pizza.