Warner Bros. // 1996 // 93 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge Jonathan Nelson (Retired) // October 22nd, 2003
God made him simple. Science made him a god. Now, he wants revenge.
And I want chop off the hand of whatever loony typed up the go-ahead for this ridiculous waste of celluloid. Stephen King sued to get his name removed from the credits of the first film. Maybe the MPAA could sue to get their credits removed from this one too.
A simple lawnmower man named Jobe was turned into a super genius with the aid of the cutting edge virtual reality programs of 1992. He tried to take over the world, got his mind sucked into cyberspace, and his body was pulled and stretched apart then finally destroyed when the complex blew up all around him.
In "the future," Jobe has been "rescued" by an evil industrialist who wants Jobe to reconstruct and unlock the secrets of a highly advanced computer chip called Chiron. By withholding from Jobe prosthetic legs to replace his useless real ones, Jobe is stuck sitting behind his computer terminal and can only move about freely in cyberspace. So Jobe finds his old friend Peter in cyberspace and pleads with him to find a Dr. Benjamin Trace, the original inventor of the Chiron chip so Jobe can finish his work and be free to take over the world again, or at least cyberspace.
Ah, those wondrous pioneering days out on the frontier. Those bold, blindly optimistic days of the mid-1990s when the glorious Internet was going to save the world and everything would pass along its infinite information superhighways! Everyone would simply plug in, probably with some type of goggles or other helmet like device, and suddenly you were a citizen of cyberspace! Oh happy days!
Naïveté? Certainly. Justifiable? Well, just take a look at the early Buck Rogers movies and you can excuse the past for trying to look into the future. Nobody really knew how the Internet would be harnessed, and what exactly cyberspace was going to be, if anything at all. I can't even remember the last time the word "cyberspace" was spoken aside from being a punch line. As for virtual reality, that other "next big thing," we still have a long way to go before that becomes a practical reality. We have to start somewhere, so in pushing the boundaries of what is real and what is virtual, we have to have a Johnny Mnemonic before we can have The Matrix.
Any movie, anytime, anywhere, that is trying to depict the future will always get a lot wrong, and we can't help but smile and chortle amongst ourselves when we watch anything that looks so dated. Some movies just can't hold up past their expiration date of the future, such as The Net.
But with The Lawnmower Man 2: Jobe's War, we have reached a new low. Something so bad that to even believe that somebody was going to write this script and say those lines with a straight face necessitates a level of gullibility not typically found in your average American moviegoing public. It is simply a horrible mess.
Let's start with the things that pass as words in the film. The inane techno-babble the characters let escape their mouths makes any episode of Star Trek (you pick the series) sound like Shakespeare when compared to the retched dialogue these poor actors have to utter. "If the trans-hoosamathig doesn't bypass the neo-cyber-optical relay then we won't be able to jack into the Chiron chip and bypass the Egypt subroutine!" (Note: not an actual line, but you probably wouldn't believe the real ones if I told them to you, so consider yourself lucky!) Granted, they were trying to describe technology that hasn't been invented yet in our reality, but most intelligent filmmakers try to at least use words that have been invented so the audience isn't completely lost. I'm a smart guy who has been using technology all my life, so I can follow along pretty well even without the aid of a bouncing ball. But in this film I would have loved to have that little bouncing ball so I could shove it down the actors' throats and gag them to stop the awful flow of random noises they are emitting. I was honestly afraid that I may have been getting dumber just by listening to them.
And if you are a glutton for pain, the acting is just as bad as the dialogue. Leading the cast is Matt Frewer as Jobe. You may remember him from his brief 15 minutes of fame in the 1980s as the title character in the TV series Max Headroom. Here he is giving us his best evil Jim Carrey impersonation, which works if you are A.) blind, B.) deaf, and C.) confusing Jim Carrey for the guy who played Bull on Night Court.. His histrionics and overacting are so grating on the nerves, that only the ineptitude of the rest of the cast save him from being the scapegoat for the whole affair.
The only returning original cast member from the first film is Austin O'Brian playing Peter, Jobe's friend. In the first film, he was about 10 years old. The future in this film looks like it's about 50 years later in a city stolen straight out of Blade Runner. So naturally, Peter should be an old man by now, and maybe he is the last man alive who knows how to stop Jobe because he understands where he came from. There, I just spontaneously made the plot 4000% better, but we can't talk about my plot because they didn't film that one. No, instead Peter is not the 60 year old man he should be but amazingly he's a 17-year-old homeless teenager living in an abandoned subway car with some other hacker friends. Their combined performance has as much juice as your typical Carrot Top TV commercial, but to be fair, none of these kids have orange hair lurking under their Seattle grunge costumes. They muddle their simple roles worse than Jake Lloyd did in Star Wars: Episode I.
The rest of the adult actors fare equally as bad. Their delivery of lines and acting ability leaves much to be desired, just about everything in fact. Ely Pouget as the female love interest, Cori, has such a poorly written part that her one-dimensional performance contains the most depth to be found in the whole movie.
The other bad guy of the film, Kevin Conway (Gods and Generals) as the evil industrialist Jonathan Walker, is just plain stupid. Let's build a high-tech compound that looks like a rejected Nazi-era fortress, staff it with incompetent storm troopers, and mandate that all employees can never open their eyes or do any actual work such as guard duty because that would require too much effort. In any 100 level Basic Evil-doing class at your local community college, they mention somewhere in the notes, usually at the beginning of the class, that at the bare minimum, a lock should be placed on all doors leading to secret and/or powerful weapons that are vital to your plans. And if the high-tech infallible security measures you have in place can be defeated with a simple ice cube, save your receipts and get a full refund.
But to be honest, this movie wasn't made to show off incredible plot writing, or an amazing acting display. No, the only reason this gem was green lit was as an excuse to use CGI and special effects. The first film had one sequence paying homage to Tron, but it also had the slightest inklings of a plot to make it worthwhile. Lawnmower Man 2 just said, "The Kids loved all the computer graphics, so we want more, more, more!" The level of industry CGI effects in the mid '90s can't compare to what can be done on a modest home computer today, but that's like complaining that Columbus couldn't find India because his PDA didn't have built in GPS. Obviously technological improvements will produce better results, and if anything, this movie snapshots the level of modest effects of the day. Like what you may think is awful edge enhancement and haloing may in fact just be poor compositing from the blue screen elements. Adequate then, embarrassing now.
The DVD picture quality is crisp and clean for the most part, without any glaring defects. Colors are faded slightly in some scenes, but overall the levels are good. The CGI effects are crisp and could have been rendered yesterday, preserving that exact artificial computer feel CGI has been associated with in the past. You have the option of watching the film in both widescreen and full screen modes on the same disc, so it's your choice to how much pain you can withstand.
The audio is given in both 5.1 digital and surround sound, but only in English. The low frequency subwoofer effects feel too heavy at spots, but other than that, the sound is actually quite good. You can hear the babbling with more clarity than you may want to. Don't be surprised if your finger finds its way to the mute button more than once during the show.
There is as much extra content as there are reasons to willing watch this movie. There are three trailers, one for Willard, one for Critters, and one for this very movie. I quite enjoyed the Critters trailer, and the Willard one isn't that bad either. The less said about the third one the better.
If this is anybody's guilty pleasure, I'd recommend therapy immediately or at least a new fetish to occupy the time. Rent Battlefield Earth. Rent Ishtar. Rent From Justin to Kelly. Maybe don't rent Gigli, let's not go too far, but whatever you do, do not rent this movie! If you happen to accidentally buy this movie, pray for mercy, or at least store credit.
Guilty on all accounts! All lawn-mowing privileges are revoked and all SAG cards shall be confiscated. All copies shall be relegated to bargain bins until space at the landfill can be arranged. Case closed!
Review content copyright © 2003 Jonathan Nelson; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
* 2.35:1 Anamorphic
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
Running Time: 93 Minutes
Release Year: 1996
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13
* Trailers: Lawnmower Man 2, Willard, Critters