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IN SHORT: Two Arnolds for the price of one. [Rated PG-13 Rated PG-13 for strong action violence, brief strong language and some sensuality. 125 minutes]
...and the publicist thought Cranky was joking when we said "What are they, nuts? An Arnold movie should never run longer than two hours!" In the case of The 6th Day, at least, you can't blame Arnold.
Have you ever bought the XXXL sized popcorn, with or without appropriate topping, and scarfed it down while watching a movie, only to think -- about 20 minutes later when the inevitable ill effects kick in -- "what the hell was I thinking?" The 6th Day is kind of like that. Fully likable until you try to figure out exactly what the story is. Exactly. Director Roger Spottiswoode wastes time with all sorts of visual artsy-fartsy-ness and useless flashback sequences, though those may be blamed on first time screenwriters Marianne & Cormac Wibberley. We haven't seen the shooting script, so we'll blame everybody. Specifics in a 'graph or two.
Sometime in the very near future, a prosperous charter helicopter pilot Adam Gibson (Arnold Schwarzenegger) and his partner Hank (Michael Rapaport) are hired to take the phenomenally wealthy scientific industrialist Michael Drucker (Tony Goldwyn) snowboarding. It's a simple gig and though Drucker is expecting Adam to fly the chopper, Hank claims to be Adam so his partner can check out whether or not to clone his newly deceased dog Oliver. Adam's wife Natalie (Wendy Crewson), knowing of his opposition to cloning is urging him to relent as their eight year old daughter Clara (Taylor Anne-Reid) isn't old enough to "understand" death. Especially in a society in which pets are routinely cloned and kidlets play with animatronic "syn-pals".
It also happens to be Adam's birthday, with a ("gee what a...") surprise party planned for that evening. The real surprise is that when Adam finally gets home -- late, as Hank never showed up to "lead" him to the surprise -- he discovers that the party is well underway and that "he" is cutting the cake and blowing out the candles. In this futureworld, where cloning of humans is illegal, cloning has happened and it's happened to Adam. Two thugs show up with silent laser pistols, and we're off to the races. Adam wants his life and family back. He wants his clone gone. He wants to know who did this and why. . .
Oh, that it were all so simple to explain. Dr. Griffen Weir (Robert Duvall) actually explains the whole thing at length, but we've been previously told that he's the real bad guy, so who knows what the truth is? That's the decision of the screenplay, to confuse the mystery of what's really going on by giving us lots of confusing options. Frankly, we do prefer a bit of confusion as opposed to movies that we can figure out with an hour to go, and as far as the mystery goes, we do prefer those wonderful "A Ha! That's what it means!" explanations in the final scenes. That isn't what happens here.
What happens here is that director Spottiswoode has cut in visual glimpses of recorded memories of each clone, part of the cloning process called "syn-chording". It isn't just that these flashes occur, at least in the first hour, without any relation to what is occurring in the actual storyline, it's that we see these syn-chords before the concept has been introduced to the plot. In at least one case we see memories from the wrong person - something we only figured out way after the fact. We haven't spent as much post-screening time trying to figure out a story since The Matrix and that film, at least, had action up the wazoo. Schwarzenegger is fine in acting-only mode, even moreso when he gets to do scenes with his clone, which are delightful.
Spottiswoode also inserts completely unnecessary flashbacks -- one in the scene immediately following the "initial" event (!) which slow the flick down. His effort would have been better spent clearing up the why and wherefore of the story rather than tossing too many false leads into the mix. By the time we get to the important flashbacks, any chance for that "a ha!" factor has been sucked out of us.
On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to The 6th Day, he would have paid...
Schwarzenegger didn't want to make another film with mindless explosions and violence. There are far fewer gratuitous explosions in The 6th Day and, yeah, we miss 'em.
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