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HAROLD RAMIS DIRECTS SEVERAL MICHAEL KEATONS IN MULTIPLICITY

year: 1997
rating: **1/2
In this Harold Ramis vehicle starring Michael Keaton, playing himself four times, we have a full blown reunion of the ANIMAL HOUSE writing staff… Which is impossible, since Douglas Kenney fell to his death in Hawaii over fifteen years prior… But Chris Miller, who wrote the original story and co-scripted MULTIPLICITY with hired hands Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandell, and whose real life college years were the inspiration for the 1978 frat classic, made sure his late friend got credit in that Keaton’s name is Doug Kinney... So with Ramis, Chris Miller and the DK moniker, this should be quite a toga party, right?

Sorry, but we're dealing with grownups now... And with a grueling job as a frantic underling in an architect firm, and the father of a young son and neglected wife, Doug Kinney simply doesn’t have enough of himself to go around. Thus the setup to his busy treadmill existence is more involving than funny… Michael Keaton, after his ultra serious “I’m Batman” era and a few edgy roles including a one dimensional villain in PACIFIC HEIGHTS, doesn’t seem the comic natural anymore. At times it’s like he’s still in uptight drama mode… Which is where his human Xerox copies provide attempted potential for the once-witty actor to shine again.

Let’s get the farfetched, science-fiction plot out of the way, quickly, since the movie does that as well: Doug winds up meeting a scientist who clones humans, and winds up making Doug another Doug: an aggressive Alpha Male that winds up taking over his job while the real thing enjoys bungee jumping, going to the ball game, and learning how to sail.

Soon enough, still having to deal with the wife and kid, Doug gets another copy, who turns out a metrosexual homebody, thus providing the sloppy Alpha Male Oscar his own futsy Felix, both living secretly cramped inside a guest house… The only problem is that Nice Doug – who garners Keaton's best performance here, venturing outside his usual box – is so in touch with his feminine side that the real Doug's wife… played by GROUNDHOG DAY ingenue Andie MacDowell… is too cozy with this more sensitive man.

Side-characters, including Eugene Levy as a flaky construction foreman and a few office jerks, are necessary to the plot yet add very little... It's really about that one cloned guy: some of the best scenes have the three Dougs going back and forth, bickering over schedules and whatever else is thrown their way, including a sexed up co-worker who takes to Alpha Doug with lusty passion...

One restaurant scene, wherein the two Doug’s identities’ almost collide, is reminiscent of a THREE’S COMPANY episode: physical hijinks evolved around keeping a secret from the "straight" character. But dueling Keatons aside, the real star are the visuals: The special effects are impressive, far beyond the days when there had to be some kind of noticeable barrier between the twin actor or actress… In fact there are particular moments where the effects team shows off: like when Doug throws something that the other catches within the same frame, proving what can be accomplished with “modern” technology.

The late Harold Ramis as director moves the story along pretty well, but the main problem is there aren’t that many genuine laughs… Not even when a third Doug is created: a borderline brain-dead basket case providing Keaton a chance to get downright goofy. And while he does loosen up the more copies are created, he overreaches here, trying desperately to make up for lost humor.

Perhaps if a MR. MOM clone appeared, a guy who didn’t always need the right dialogue to be witty, there would be more to enjoy here: back then it took only one Michael Keaton to get the job done.

year: 2009 rating: **
Okay, so let's shoehorn in another Harold Ramis movie, and YEAR ONE was, sadly, his last directorial effort...

Judging by the title, this seems like a prehistoric caveman comedy and winds up a full blown Biblical satire centering on Neanderthals: the parody partakes on the Tree of Knowledge, Cain and Able, Abraham's sacrifice and Sodom & Gomorah.

The characters are like college slacker/virgin/losers who can't get girls or any respect, only with loin cloths instead of preppy shirts and pocket protectors. Jack Black is basically playing Jack Black without any really funny lines, and yet his blunt delivery sometimes works as he counters elfin-androgynous Michael Cera's Emo-passive, ultra-dry humor.

This is the polar opposite of a date flick: full of gorgeous babes, dorky dudes, and raunchy Apatow-inspired jokes. And while director Harold Ramis (providing a cameo as Cain's father) had pretty much lost his touch, believe it or not he'd done much worse (like STUART SAVES HIS FAMILY). But as bad as the story can be, the characters become so involved within this world, you can't help but be somewhat entertained by the spectacle. Perhaps the late director should be given credit for that miracle alone.
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