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"THE 6TH DAY"
(2000) (Arnold Schwarzenegger, Tony Goldwyn) (PG-13)

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QUICK TAKE:
Sci-fi/Action-Adventure: Discovering that he's been cloned and that his duplicate self is now living with his family, a man tries to find out who's responsible and get both his life and family back.
PLOT:
Sometime in the near future, where deceased or sick pets can be cloned into exact duplicates with all of the memories and personalities of the original, but similar human cloning is banned, Adam Gibson (ARNOLD SCWARZENEGGER) is a happily married pilot and partner of the Double X Charter Company, a futuristic helicopter service that transports clients to snowy environs.

While his partner and best friend, Hank Morgan (MICHAEL RAPAPORT), enjoys the company of a virtual girlfriend, Adam is old-fashioned when it comes to technology outside of work. He finds those stances challenged when his daughter, Clara (TAYLOR ANNE REID), wants a mostly realistic looking and behaving Sim-Pal doll, while his wife, Natalie (WENDY CREWSON), urges him to replace their dog that was just put to sleep with a cloned replacement from RePet.

Knowing he has time to kill before Natalie throws him a "surprise" birthday party, Adam heads off to look into both while Hank sets off with multi-billionaire Michael Drucker (TONY GOLDWYN) who runs Replacement Technologies, a firm designed to replenish the world's food supply through advanced cloning.

Since human cloning is illegal, various factions see Drucker and his chief scientist, Dr. Griffin Weir (ROBERT DuVALL) -- whose wife, Katherine (WANDA CANNON), is terminally ill -- as dangerous and thus put a hit out on Drucker.

After experiencing an odd sensation while on his way to RePet, Adam returns home only to find to his shock that Natalie and others are already celebrating his birthday with him inside their house. He doesn't have much time to think about that, however, as Robert Marshall (MICHAEL ROOKER), the head of Replacement Technologies security and his cronies, Talia Elsworth (SARAH WYNTER), Wiley (ROD ROWLAND) and Vincent (TERRY CREWS), arrive on the scene and try to capture and kill him.

Eventually discovering that he's been cloned and that his family will be killed if they see him and his clone together, Adam must then figure out who cloned him and why, all while avoiding Marshall and his thugs who repeatedly return as new clones every time he kills them.

OUR TAKE: 5 out of 10
Although there are all sorts of moral, ethical and scientific reasons why people are against the thought of cloning human beings, I think I've finally figured out the ultimate explanation. Some, of course, worry about the gene pool possibly becoming contaminated if too many of the same people are out in society. Others have religious reservations about man playing God.

The real reason to worry, however, is that certain dastardly characters will inevitably clone themselves. While the thought of reproducing tyrannical figures from the past or present is scary in its own right, the possibility of scores of clones of Richard Simmons, Carrot Top or Yanni simultaneously performing around the world, or of hundreds or thousands of political candidates concurrently campaigning in every state, city and precinct is enough to send shivers down one's spine and elicit the call for immediate suspension of all such testing and research.

Of course, and as applied to the movies, one can imagine the studios eagerly growing an endless forest of Julia Roberts, Tom Cruise and Tom Hanks clones to keep them young, viable and ready to perform. On the other hand, critics and moviegoers alike probably hate the thought of an endless supply of filmmakers who take decent and potentially exciting and thought-provoking premises and turn them into mediocre clumps of pablum and missed opportunities.

Both factors seem to be in play with the release of "The 6th Day." While it's clear from star Arnold Schwarzenegger's appearance that he hasn't been cloned, he and Columbia Pictures certainly want us to think that the '80s and early '90s action star known for his muscles and humorous quips and one-liners can still pull off the sort of film that made him an international star.

While he doesn't look as long in the tooth as some of his fellow former action performers, it's becoming obvious that the 53-year-old Schwarzenegger ("End of Days," "Eraser") probably only has a few of these sorts of films left in him. He certainly gives it a decent effort here - at least from a physical standpoint and considering his age -- but unfortunately neither the script nor direction is up to giving him the support he needs, and the thought of the Austrian-born actor playing off himself in a dramatic sense may be too much for many critics and some moviegoers to stomach.

It's not that the film is lacking in potential. The script - by the husband and wife team of Marianne & Cormac Wibberley (making their collective debut) - clearly opens the doors for all sorts of dramatic and action/thriller possibilities. After all, while the underlying cloning plot might not be that novel, and the story has somewhat of a "Total Recall" feel and aura, the recent progress and debate concerning cloned animals has clearly brought the topic into the public limelight and made it a bit easier for the average, non-scientific moviegoer to grasp from a conceptual standpoint.

Director Roger Spottiswoode ("Tomorrow Never Dies," "Air America") and his team of effects personnel have certainly made the future fun from a technological standpoint, and such creativity fuels the film as we wait for the main plot to kick in. Unfortunately, once it does, such creativity evaporates faster than venture capital at an Internet startup and the picture then turns into just another standard, by the numbers action yarn.

Although that's not necessarily the kiss of death - since, after all, that's what's fueled many of Schwarzenegger's past films - the way in which the filmmakers mount and then execute such scenes is certainly less than engaging or thrilling and clearly doesn't contain the testosterone-laced, adrenaline pumping that marks the best such films.

Part of that's due to the way in which the film's villains have been written and then portrayed. While Tony Goldwyn ("Kiss the Girls," "Ghost") embodies the corporate, tycoon side of the Frankenstein-type story, he simply doesn't come across as dangerous or interesting enough to matter. His subordinates - including Michael Rooker ("The Bone Collector," "Cliffhanger"), Rod Rowland ("Panic," "Dancing at the Blue Iguana"), Terry Crews (making his debut) and Sarah Wynter ("Lost Souls," "Species 2") doing something of the Carrie-Anne Moss action thing - fare even worse.

While some of them are killed only to be cloned again for more encounters with Arnie, that plot element - which is somewhat reminiscent of the unstoppable Robert Patrick character in "Terminator 2" - simply isn't thought out that well, although such returns from the dead provide Schwarzenegger with material for his trademark one-liners.

Such humor - and other scattered bits of it that mostly involve Michael Rapaport ("Men of Honor," "Lucky Numbers") and some technological advances - keep things from getting too stale, but the filmmakers obviously missed the boat regarding have two or more Schwarzeneggers in the story.

While I wasn't expecting any "Parent Trap" style shenanigans, I did wait for the two identical characters to argue about which was the real Adam Gibson, and think of creative and clever ways to defeat the enemy, or for the film to include a shot featuring an army of evil Schwarzeneggers coming off an assembly line to do battle with the heroes. Alas, none of that happens, and what little is there isn't that fun.

One can only hope then that the ethical conundrum of cloning will come into play and have a profound impact on the proceedings. While it's present on various levels - the most obvious being a subplot featuring Robert Duvall ("Gone in 60 Seconds," "A Civil Action") as the lead scientist who's faced with the dilemma of wanting to save his dying wife who wants to die with dignity rather than live on through cloning. While that generates some potential for some thought-provoking or emotional moments, the execution of such scenes is as bland and flat as the action ones.

As far as the story goes from a sci-fi standpoint, there are certainly some interesting plot points and developments, but several overriding problems and an overall lack of "magic" mostly dismiss them. One concerns the speed at which the clones are manufactured. While suspension of disbelief is a key ingredient for any sci-fi yarn, a two-hour "baking" time seems a bit short to create a perfect clone, and even that brief time seems to be truncated in the film's waning moments.

Then there's the fact that important exposition, explanations and other information comes far too easily from certain characters without the proper or credible motivation for them to spill the beans as fully and easily as they do. While such info obviously has to come out at some point and via some means, the way in which the novice screenwriters have fashioned it certainly shows their cinematic greenness.

Overall, the film may be relatively painless to watch and does offer some occasionally fun moments, but it's simply too flat and uneventful when it should have been exciting, thrilling and possibly even moving. Wasting a fun, "Twilight Zone" type premise, the film may appease die-hard Schwarzenegger fans, but in the end, it comes off feeling like a partially defective clone of the star's previous action flicks. The ingredients are all there, but the mix doesn't yield the fun results like it once did. As a result, "The 6th Day" rates as just a 5 out of 10.




Reviewed November 13, 2000 / Posted November 17, 2000


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