Multiplicity (1996)

This quirky little gem was directed by Harold Ramis which, at the time, came across like a bright spark in an otherwise dull period. His last success had been the Bill Murray comedy ‘Groundhog Day’ back 1993, and since then offerings had been a bit limp (‘Airheads, 1994). Then you also had the resurgence of Michael Keaton. Now up until this point Keaton had actually been doing very well since his last big outing as Batman in 1992. Films like ‘The Paper’ and ‘My Life’ had shown Keaton could be a very good serious actor, he didn’t need the Bat to help him out it seemed. Nevertheless Keaton hadn’t made a good comedy since 1989 in ‘The Dream Team’, so could he still deliver?

Upon a first glance this looked like another weak comedy, even worse…a romantic comedy! I recall seeing trailers in cinema back in the day and completely brushing it aside as soppy trash. Yet the plot to this gooey nonsense is actually pretty solid. A busy construction worker is finding it hard to juggle his work with his personal life, he’s suffering from stress and taking it out on the wrong people. On one of his jobs at a science facility Doug (Keaton) stumbles across Dr. Leeds (Harris Yulin)…and his clone. Yes this scientist has perfected the art of cloning humans it seems and offers Doug the chance to clone himself so he can sort his life out. The idea being there will be two Doug’s, one for work and one for family. After a few hiccups everything goes swimmingly and before you know it, Doug gets another clone to help out around the house. Its obvious where this is headed, eventually one of the clones gets a clone and before you know it Doug’s life is getting a bit hectic again. Can he now juggle his work, family and three clones?

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So as I said the idea behind this is actually really neat. It makes you think, wouldn’t it be cool to have a clone of yourself that you could send to work so you could bum around. Indeed the movie actually doesn’t offer up any negative aspects of this idea, it generally works out pretty well for the protagonist. You half expect one clone to turn out all psychotic or something and Doug needing to vaporise him or whatever. But no it doesn’t go down that dramatic route, instead each clone takes on one of Doug’s traits. One is more of a mans man, one has Doug’s feminine side and one is like a young child…and a bit simple.

This allows Keaton to showcase his comedic skills with different performances for each clone, and it works nicely. Clone one (Lance) is a great foil to Doug with his brash masculinity, lack of tact and slobby habits. Clone two (Rico) is very amusing with his soft over sensitive nature, complete knowledge in and around the kitchen and his sharp dress sense. Lastly clone three (Lenny) is the least funny to be honest as he merely does stupid slapstick type things and acts like a child. To be brutally honest I don’t even think the movie needed this character, should have gone with a different trait if you ask me. If you removed clone three it wouldn’t really make any difference.

Looking back the special effects now are laughably poor I’m afraid, although not always. Seeing as there are four Keaton’s you can imagine there’s gonna be a lot of greenscreen and split-screen here. Again as you can imagine this being a 1996 flick most of these effects, now, do look ropy. There are some terribly obvious stark black lines around Keaton in some scenes with other clones, not only that but there is also really obvious light issues between the characters (presumably greenscreen effects). Not all look that bad, some scenes look quite good where shots have been digitally layered together or when Keaton has obviously interacted with a stand-in and then they replaced that with another Keaton character. All the clones in the car at the end, Doug pouring Lenny some Coke, all the clones on the couch in the living room, all great looking effects scenes.

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Obviously there are always gonna be questions and nitpicks because that’s what I do. The house that Doug and his family live in is YUGE! I know this guy is a team leader in construction and I know Americans do live in big houses compared to us here in the UK, but Jesus! This place even has a second small house at the bottom of the garden! Is that an the American version of a shed or something?? Then you have Dr. Leeds and his cloning lab. How is this guy not world famous by now with his human cloning? Surely perfecting this kind of scientific breakthrough would be big news.

Yes this movie is horribly dated now, which is really scary for me because as said I remember seeing the trailers in the cinema. Keaton is a great comedic lead but boy does he look out of date and so very 90’s in this (no shit!). The way he dresses is sooo 90’s its lovely, its like watching Friends again. The overall comedy is very agreeable in general. At times wickedly good, at times hit and a miss, at times cringeworthy and over the top. Andie MacDowell plays Doug’s wife which is one let down because she’s so flippin’ useless in my opinion, all teeth and nose. But I do love this movies premise, its clever and presents great opportunities for witty visual comedy (just like ‘Groundhog Day’). In general this is a great little flick that suited Ramis to a tee. It offers some genuine laughs and a nice easy-going, laid-back experience. Comfy viewing.

7/10

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