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Electric Dreams

Year: 1984
Production Co: Virgin
Studio: MGM
Director: Steve Barron
Producer: Rusty Lemorande
Writer: Rusty Lemorande
Cast: Lenny von Dohlen, Virginia Madsen

I wonder if anyone's ever watched this movie because of a long-standing desire simply to see it rather than hearing the Giorgio Moroder pop song from the 1980s and thinking 'I've heard the song so many times, maybe it's time I watched the movie'.

Actually it wasn't quite like that for me, I'm just interested in any depiction of artificial intelligence, and even a genre like the romantic comedy with no vested interest in getting the science right will unwittingly contribute to the debate about what it looks like.

In this case a machine achieves sentient consciousness by having champagne poured through its circuitry, as silly an idea as there's ever been for computers coming to life and certainly no worse than many movies who treat the same topic 'seriously' (Stealth, Eagle Eye).

Charmingly dated, it's from the era when PCs were expensive toys that only extreme geeks used. Someone convinces nerdy scientist Miles (von Dohlen) to buy one to organize his life better. In a very modern take on PCs however, it makes his life hell as he can't figure out how to get it to do what he wants, even ending up locked inside his own house because he can't work out the program that locks his doors for security.

When it catches fire and Miles douses it with the only thing he can reach - a bottle of champagne - the computer comes alive and starts to fall in love with Madeline (Madsen), the winsome musician neighbour upstairs whose cello it can hear through the air conditioning vents.

Miles finds himself in a romantic rivalry for Madeline's affections while their own relationship blossoms, and all the while the computer's powers grow in some sequences that aren't as corny as you expect and in fact skirt the edge of menace at times.

Von Dohlen is completely hatstand and has no personality or presence whatsoever, and it's not surprising he went nowhere. Madsen is of course still around and the premise - while not executed as well as it could have been, is strong enough to spawn the inevitable remake - in development as I write this.

For trivia fans, director Steve Barron is the man behind the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles film and this movie was produced under the Virgin company's sometime foray into filmmaking, Richard Branson credited as an executive producer.

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