Reviews for the Easily Distracted:
Total Recall

Title: Total Recall

Does Colin Farrell "Get His Ass to Mars?" Nobody makes it off the planet in this version, but Kate Beckinsale and Jessica Biel most definitely have a couple of "out-of-this-world" derrieres. High five!

Rating Using Random Objects Relevant to the Film: One Kuato out of five.

Brief Plot Synopsis: Regular Joe seeks temporary escape from reality, ends up embroiled in rebellion and hunted by the authorities. Well played.

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Tagline: "What is real?"

Better Tagline: "It's real fucking loud, that's for sure."

Not So Brief Plot Synopsis:Doug Quaid (Farrell), a Working Class Dog from the year 2084, ignores friends telling him Don't Talk to Strangers and visits Rekall, a corporation that implants memories of past exciting experiences. Things go awry when evidence of past memory modification brings the attention of the authorities. He Bops 'til He Drops back to his loving wife Lori (Beckinsdale), but it turns out Love is not All Right Tonight when she reveals herself to be a secret agent. Now Quaid is on the run from the forces of the evil Chancellor Cohaagen (Bryan Cranston), getting help from Melina (Biel), a figure from his past who's all like, I've Done Everything For You. Can they thwart Cohaagen's nefarious scheme? Maybe all the Chancellor really needs is a Human Touch.

"Critical" Analysis: Yeah, you know what? I'm not apologizing for that shit. Sony and production company Original Film (savor that for a moment) decided to screen this last night. You show me a movie less than 12 hours before my review is due, you get lame Rick Springfield jokes.

Hollywood has a Philip K. Dick problem. Don't get me wrong, studios seem to appreciate the famed author's work, and have optioned several of his properties for feature films (Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep begat Blade Runner, "The Golden Man" begat Next etc etc). Trouble is, they can't help butching up his stories with action sequences and chase scenes that are often completely absent from the source material (Minority Report, Paycheck). It's almost as if Hollywood doesn't trust its own audiences' capacity to comprehend Dick's frequently visited themes of subjective reality and malleable identity.

Imagine that.

The new Total Recall is barely more recognizable as a PKD adaptation than its predecessor, but while the 1990 Schwarzenegger movie might have strayed further afield from the source material, it was also a hell of a lot more entertaining than this mess.

The bare bones are still there: Quaid is visited with disturbingly realistic dreams involving an escape of some sort with a mysterious woman (Biel). In an attempt to scratch his psychic itch, he visits REKAL, requesting the "secret agent" package. And that's when things go tits up. Soldiers appear and Quaid, exhibiting a mysterious aptitude for kicking ass, kills an entire squad single-handed. Then wife Lori turns hostile and pursues Quaid (or is it Hauser?) with hilarious single-mindedness.

The original Total Recall never laid any claim to being a more accurate PKD adaptation, but at least there was a sense of humor to even out the movie's ludicrous premise. The remake lacks even that, making the film's stupefying underpinnings that much harder to swallow. You say chemical warfare made most of Earth uninhabitable at the end of the 21st century? Okay. And the only livable areas are the "United Federation of Britain" (the British Isles) and "the Colony" (Australia)? Oookay. And you say the oppressed workers of the Colony - a polyglot Blade Runner-ish metropolis of arcologies and sampans - travel every day to work through something called "The Fall," a transport system that goes THROUGH THE CENTER OF THE EARTH? [Prof. Farnsworth] Good news, everyone! I've discovered an alloy that can withstand the extreme heat and pressures of the Earth's core. Now we just need to build a giant subway tunnel 7,900 miles long.[/Prof. Farnsworth]

Given that, I'd make the argument the whole movie isn't about a former government agent whose mind was wiped after he began sympathizing with the rebels he was sent to infiltrate, but rather the fever dream of a frustrated structural engineer.

It's bad enough that Total Recall is little more than an extended video game sequence, replete with extended chase scenes (mag-lev cars this time instead of Johnny Cabs) and shout outs to Inception and the aforementioned Blade Runner, but for all the supposed "Is it real/Is it recall?" mystery, at no time do we ever doubt what's happening to Quaid/Hauser is really happening. That makes Total Recall even more pointless than it already was.

Total Recall is in theaters today. Remember to avoid it.

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