Awfully Good: Lawnmower Man 2: Beyond Cyberspace
TRANSCENDENCE was so bad it actually made me miss this movie…
Lawnmower Man 2: Beyond Cyberspace (1996)
Director: Sam Firstenberg
Stars: Matt Frewer, Austin O'Brien, Patrick Bergin
Former gardener-turned-cyber deity Jobe is back once again to prove that Hollywood has no idea how computers work.
I would like to say that LAWNMOWER MAN 2: BEYOND CYBERSPACE (or LAWNMOWER MAN 2: JOBE'S WAR, depending on who you ask) is simply a case of a technology-driven film feeling goofy and outdated two decades later. But that's not the truth. This movie is rotten on every level… and was probably already obsolete when it was released in the mid-90s.
"Oh God. Why am I watching the Chyna sex tape?!"
For those unfamiliar, the first LAWNMOWER MAN was a very loose Stephen King adaptation that saw Pierce Brosnan's brilliant scientist turn Jeff Fahey's grass-trimming simpleton in to a telekinetic genius who went insane in virtual reality. Much like this sequel, it was a classic cautionary tale about the dangers of technology and mankind's reliance on computers. (You know, the same basic plot they're still remaking today with Johnny Depp.) The most notable difference is this time there's no Pierce Brosnan or Jeff Fahey. But they were able to get Austin O'Brien (MY GIRL 2, LAST ACTION HERO) back!
"Now entering Anna Chlumsky virtual simulator."
LAWNMOWER MAN 2 takes place six years after the events of the first movie; however, the random post-apocalyptic Los Angeles setting makes it look like a century in the future. Despite supposedly getting exploded at the end of the first movie, Jobe is alive and well. It turns out rescue workers were able to save him from the fire, but instead of providing him with medical attention, they amputated his legs and sold him to an evil corporation led by an evil businessman (played by a poor man's Rip Torn). When we see Jobe years later, Evil Rip Torn has held him prisoner and forced him to build Virtual Light, the "first computer network ever created inside virtual reality." (Apparently this is an accomplishment that will somehow lead to world domination.)
"Rip and the Albino: Detectives For Hire. Coming this fall to Fox!"
However, despite a penchant for wearing flannel and playing paddle ball, years of imprisonment have turned Jobe in to what can only be described as a terrorist Jim Carrey. Once he goes full evil, he starts derailing subways, crashing planes, and assassinating politicians—all while acting goofy and spouting off comedy one liners. The mannerisms are so uncanny, I kept waiting for him to say, "Alrighty then, computer!"
"Bumble Bee Tuna!"
Thankfully, a group of ragtag kids led by Peter (Jobe's BFF from the first movie) somehow get involved in the mix and set out to stop him. And these aren't just any teenagers; they're brilliant hackers who spend all day stealing in order support their virtual reality habit, which in this film consists of flying around a greenscreened Hawaii. (They also have a genius hacker dog who somehow is able to load the correct CD-ROM in to the computer on command.) Obviously, these are your typical obnoxious movie children, but their amateur acting just makes it so much worse. Even when they're joined by the father or VR—a white guy named Trace who I'm pretty sure is pretending to be an American Indian—it doesn't instill much confidence in the film's supposed heroes.
But even with the lame characterizations and miserable script, LAWNMOWER MAN 2's biggest sin is how little it understands technology. This is a movie where hacking a computer consists of solving various mazes, random mathematical equations and yelling at the computer to do what you want. Characters actually say dialogue like "There's a nano-routine hidden in the Chiron chip!" and "He couldn't have! There's no trans-matrix!" I don't even think the filmmakers understand how Jobe's plan somehow leads him taking over the world. They just throw around buzzwords like "virtual reality" and "network and "chip" and assume that it will scare and confuse the audience. Even the visual effects are somehow far worse than in the original movie. The CGI VR creations in the first LAWNMOWER MAN look archaic by today's standards, but at least they're more interesting than people hanging from wires in front of a green screen.
VIRTUAL REALITY IS AWESOME!
And that's really what it boils down to: this movie is just boring as hell. Having a low budget is one thing, but there's not a creative thought in the entire script. Just like in the first film, Jobe eventually goes full-on nuts inside a computer simulation, this time turning in to a crazy cyberspace evangelist who thinks he's God. When the heroes "jack in" to the network to stop him, instead of an amazing battle in a virtual world where your imagination becomes reality, they just have a really boring, slow swordfight.
Okay, at least it's a pretty cool sword.
Jimy Carrey Jobe has some curious one-liners:
"Jack in. Jack off. What's the difference?"
"It's a pleasure to finally meet you doctor. I feel like we're almost—blushing—family! Incest… the game the whole family can play. My brother's my daddy!"
"Tell me what Egypt means doctor, before I get really F*CKING PISSED OFF!"
[after derailing a train and killing a bunch of people] "The caboose… is loose!"
"I don't need the Chiron chip! I've become the chip!"
The most memorable moment in the movie is purely accidental. At one point the bad guy completely predicts a future Apple product:
"We'll be joined by hundreds of other prominent people who'll be jacking in from all over the country. So if you're ready, don your iPhones and we can begin."
The various VR scenes are so cheesy and poorly rendered they're almost enjoyable. Same goes for the "climactic" end fight.
At one point early in the film, people are walking by a computer monitor and out of nowhere, someone cautions "Be careful. Those things can kill you." This makes no sense until later in the movie when a nameless henchman gets one smashed over their head and you realize this was the screenwriters attempt at being clever.
Nothing to "jack out" to.
Take a shot or drink every time:
- The movie doesn't understand how computers and technology work
- Someone talks about "jacking in" or "jacking out"
- Jobe sounds like Jim Carrey
- Jobe mentions Egypt
- Trace's Irish accent is audible
- A super sophisticated security system is defeated with an ice cube
- Someone watches someone else pee
Thanks to Tyler and Ryan for suggesting this week's movie!