Making Mr. Right

Director: Susan Seidelman  
John Malkovich, Ann Magnuson, Glenne Headly

I've said it before in several of my movie reviews in the past, and I'll say it again - in my gut, I feel that there will be a number of severe problems for mankind in the future, problems that currently don't exist. Problems like running out of oil or several more billion people sharing this earth. Still, at the same time I realize that things are constantly changing, and today we are blessed with conveniences that we didn't have just a few decades ago. There's the Internet, for one thing, and other things like cell phones and DVD players. I try to keep telling myself during my cynical thoughts of the future that in the years to come, there will surely be new and exciting things for mankind to use. Sometimes I try to brainstorm what new things might happen in the future. For example, I wonder how things will be like when we finally invent the flying car. At first it does seem like that would be a great thing, but then I realize that if everyone has a flying car, everyone will be dodging everyone else up in the air. Air traffic controllers are already stressed out, so I can only imagine what it would be like to keep an eye on thousands of flying cars at once. Some of my other future thoughts are, fortunately, more cheerful. I do have a strong feeling that someday, cold fusion will be perfected. No, not the now defunct Cold Fusion Video Reviews web site - that was already perfect, if you ask me. I am talking about the kind of cold fusion that would bring unlimited power to everyone in the world. If the world had a supply of unlimited power, it would be a godsend. No more fighting over oil, or arguing about nuclear power plants. So many problems would be gone with this invention.

There is one new invention that seems to come up more often than not when it comes to views on the future, and that is the invention of artificial intelligence. I don't think that it's going to happen in the next few months or so - after several decades of the electronic computer, all we have been able to come up with so far are computers that can beat a human opponent in checkers or chess. And it could be argued that these computers are not really "thinking". But I have a feeling that artificial intelligence will indeed be invented sometime in the future, though whether it will be in a few years or a few decades, that's up in the air. At first, it seems that artificial intelligence would be a great boost to mankind. You would have electronic brains figuring out the solutions to various problems that might take human minds a lot longer to figure out. And applications such as a robot servant in your home would make day to day life a lot easier. But at the same time, I see potential problems with artificial intelligence. If a machine could think like a human, but could do so at a breakneck speed, wouldn't the machine get bored pretty quickly? This leads to another potential problem, a problem used by many movies and books that deal with artificial intelligence. What if machines that had artificial intelligence got sick of being treated like servants, and rebelled against their human masters? The idea of fighting a mind that is fast-thinking is a scary one. That's why I believe that if a scientist wants to build an artificial mind, he should at least start with a machine not connected in any way to other computers or machines, and have the machine unable to move around in any way.

Maybe it would be possible for scientists working on artificial intelligence to come up with an electronic brain that could, as an option, think more slowly, similar to how many humans think. That might make the prospect of artificial intelligence more appealing. But I can still see some potential Making Mr. Rightproblems with the idea of machines that can think for themselves. Could they be considered equal to humans, sharing the same rights as humans from voting to freedom of speech? Could they even indulge in relationships, not just with other machines, but also with humans? Those are pretty sticky questions, and the movie Making Mr. Right asks these questions among others. It would be interesting to see a serious look at these questions, but Making Mr. Right is a comedy. Still, a comic look at these questions could still come up with some interesting answers, which is one reason why I picked up this movie. The events of the movie take place in Florida, where in the first few minutes we are introduced to one Frankie Stone (Magnuson, Anything But Love), an image consultant who has just dumped her politician boyfriend (Ben Masters, Passions) after finding him messing with another woman. Focusing on her work to take her mind off things, Frankie meets her agency's newest client, Dr. Jeff Peters (Malkovich, In The Line Of Fire), who has just developed an android (also played by Malkovich) by the name of Ulysses. Ulysses is set to go on a seven year space exploration mission, but Dr. Peters first needs Ulysses to learn to act more human. So Frankie takes on the task of socializing with Ulysses and teaching him the art of being human, which turns out to be harder than expected due to Ulysses unsure of many social graces. Things become more difficult over time when Ulysses feels he has fallen in love with Frankie and tells her so - especially because Frankie starts to feel she may be falling in love with this android!

With the knowledge of the movie's basic story, I subsequently did some pre-viewing research and discovered (not to my surprise) that Making Mr. Right bombed big time in theaters, barely grossing a sixth of its budget. I wasn't surprised, because I could see why people might not be attracted by the basic story. Women probably didn't like the idea of one of their own having to find suitable companionship in a machine, and I am sure that men didn't like the idea of a woman abandoning human men and finding satisfaction in a mechanical version of them. While all of that certainly does not have anything to do with how good or not the movie is, I think it clouded people's minds and stopped them from investigating further. What would they have thought if they had given the movie a chance? Well, I'll admit that they would have probably seen the same faults I found in my viewing. For starters, the movie takes a considerable amount of time to really start getting going. In the first half hour of the movie, there is barely any time showing us Ulysses. By the end of this first third of the movie, we should have had a pretty good idea of this character by then. Eventually, we do get to see more of Ulysses, and some interaction between Ulysses and Frankie. However, I don't think that the remaining hour or so of the movie gives us quite enough time in one aspect between these two characters. I don't think that the movie gives us enough time showing Ulysses and Frankie really talking to each other. After all, love between two human beings comes from a lot of time doing some serious talking about serious topics. When Ulysses eventually declares his love to Frankie, it seems to come out of the blue. You don't sense that a big enough bond has been built beforehand for this to happen.

There are a couple of other problems I had with the screenplay. The climax of the movie takes place at a wedding Frankie and Dr. Peters are attending, and Ulysses sneaks out of the lab to find Frankie. Ah, the audience says at this point, there will be confusion between Peters and the identical-looking Ulysses among the wedding guests! But guess what - there is no mix-up of any kind, with both Peters and Ulysses separately and correctly identified by all who interact with them! Confusion between the two could have given us some good laughs. The other problem I had with the screenplay was the ending. While I guess the movie does give the audience some kind of a happy ending, at the same time it leaves one main character with a fate that seems cold and sad, and made me feel sorry for this individual - not exactly what you want to feel at the end of a romantic comedy. Anyway, while the screenplay for Making Mr. Right could have used a few more rewrites, the movie still has enough going for it to make it worth a look. For starters, the performances by the cast are very well done. Magnuson, for one thing, gives her character a very bubbly personality. Although we don't get to know her character as much as we should, she comes across as cheerful and sympathetic, so we want to see her find happiness. But the showstopping performance - actually, two of them - goes to Malkovich. He has to act in two completely different ways, the bumbling and somewhat child-like spirit that is Ulysses, as well as (when playing Dr. Peters) a reserved and reluctant loner who'd rather not interact with others. As Ulysses, Malkovich shows a great sense of physical comedy with his character's jerky movements, something you might not have seen in his other movies. When Ulysses is more in control, he shows a sweetness and naivité that seems just right for a machine that doesn't completely know the art of being human. And as Dr. Peters, Malkovich is completely different. When he interacts with others, you can tell from his words and body language that it's really something he'd rather not do. It's as if Malkovich was trying to convey a mild case of Asperger's syndrome for his character, years before the syndrome was better known.

Although the character of Dr. Peters is anti-social, in a surprising turn, the movie shows a lot of sympathy towards him. With some key dialogue and subtle direction to Malkovich's performance, we get the feeling that Dr. Peters hates himself and wishes he could interact more. Making Mr. Right has a number of small but memorable character touches like that, possibly because one of the screenwriters was female and the director (who previously did the character rich Desperately Seeking Woman) was a woman as well. (I've often find that women in film more often than not add a more human touch to their movies than their male counterparts.) The movie, despite its flaws, likes its characters and for the most part doesn't try to generate humor by heavy-handed techniques such as humiliation. Which leads to the main question you've probably had from the start of this review: Is Making Mr. Right funny? Well, I have to admit that I didn't really laugh out loud at any moment during my viewing. But I have to admit that I had a pretty big smile on my face throughout. This movie knows all too well about what it's like to be human. When Dr. Peters tries to avoid someone he previously had a bad experience with, when the sleazy politician tries to put on the charm on Frankie in an attempt to get back with her (for his own selfish reasons), and when Ulysses frequently attempts to understand the often crazy world of humans, I could see myself or some of the many people I have met during my entire life in these characters. The movie never tries to be a laugh riot, instead showing us in lightly amusing ways just how complicated life can really be for us humans. I was charmed by Making Mr. Right. It's not a movie for everyone, nor is it appropriate for any time you are in the mood for a laugh-out-loud movie, but if you want to see a human comedy, it's almost certainly a safe bet.

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See also: Cherry 2000, Surrender, Terminal Justice