MULTIPLICITY. Directed by Harold Ramis; written by Chris Miller, Mary Hale, Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel; produced by Trevor Albert and Harold Ramis for Columbia. Starring Michael Keaton and Andie MacDowell. Rated PG-13.
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As funny as Michael Keaton can be by himself, you'd expect a movie where he plays four different roles to be a lot funnier than Multiplicity.
It is funny, at least occasionally, and it has a very clever premise. But the occasions don't happen often enough and the clever idea at the heart of the movie never reaches its full potential.
Doug, (Keaton) a construction foreman, is incredibly busy at work, too busy for quality time with his pretty wife Laura (MacDowell) and their two kids. Enter a "mad" scientist with the perfect answer to Doug's problems—cloning!
After just the slightest hesitation, Doug agrees to be cloned. With two of him, he/they shouldn't have any trouble getting everything done at work with time left over for spousing and parenting. But, as anyone who's ever added a room onto their house knows, the stuff of our lives rapidly expands to fill the available space/time; before you know it, a second clone is needed.
Then, just for grins, the clones (known by tatoos behind their ears as Two and Three) clone one of them to make Four. But, you know that copies made from copies rather than originals aren't ever quite as "sharp." So Four has what the others call a "special" personality. Not surprisingly, Doug's solution to his problems causes more trouble than he had to begin with.
Problems of pacing and length are the main reasons Multiplicity is disappointing, along with some difficulty suspending belief (not about the cloning itself, which is crazy enough to be believable, but in the more mundane areas of character gullibility, especially Laura's, and mysteriously available resources).
There are also a couple of sensitivity issues that get in the way of enjoyment of the movie. I don't have any trouble with the basic gag behind Four's creation, but the way he's treated by the others is bothersome. In addition, Three develops a prissy, obsessive personality that is undoubtedly funny, but uncomfortably so.
As wish fulfillment fantasy gone awry, Multiplicity is mildly entertaining. But, given Keaton's and director Ramis' reputations (Ramis gave us the delightful Groundhog Day, after all) it should have been so much more.
August 7, 1996