Multiplicity (1996) — Four Michael Keatons try to live one life

“You know how when you make a copy of a copy, it’s not as sharp as… well… the original.”

Justin’s rating: justin’s rating: justin’s rating: justin’s rating:

Justin’s review: I distinctly remember when Multiplicity came to our college town’s second-run movie theater, where I attempted to go see it on a Sunday afternoon. Unfortunately for me, I was going through a bizarre “no shoes” phase and they wouldn’t let me in. Ever since that day, I’ve held on to a mild regret that I didn’t get to see Michael Keaton clone himself under the guidance of Harold Ramis — a regret that now, decades later, I put to rest.

I miss Keaton taking these pleasing little comedy roles. He used to do so many of these, and they were always delightful. But when men get of a certain age, it’s like they can only do morose dramas. That’s a shame.

This silly scifi-light comedy is born of a relatable scenario: A guy being torn between increasing responsibilities at both work and home. Doug (Keaton) is a likable construction guy who is overworked and just needs a break — and that break comes in the form, as it often does, of a cloning machine. Doug figures that a second Doug could handle his job while he can spend more time with the fam. This goes so well that clones three and four join the mix, and… well, yeah, you could probably write the rest of this movie.

It’s not like we haven’t seen cloning stories before or since. It’s always a good way to allow an actor to stretch his or her legs by assuming multiple roles — which is no doubt why this appealed to Keaton — but the story ends up the same every time. It gets too chaotic, there’s a lot of comedic mix-ups, and somehow the genie is put back into the bottle and lessons are learned.

For Multiplicity, the angle here is more on the relationship between Doug and his wife Laura (Andie MacDowell, a ’90s romcom trooper). The gift of “time” that Doug’s clone grants him also throws a monkey wrench in their already damaged relationship as all of the clones start making a move on Laura. There’s a whole can of ethical marital worms that gets opened here and not addressed to my satisfaction.

But the muddled plot would be OK if it was funny. And I can’t quite make that claim here. I’m willing to go as far as “amusing” and “whimsical,” but at no point while watching this did a laugh emerge my lips. I don’t know about you, but if I’m getting more actual chuckles from a 20-minute sitcom than a two-hour movie, then I have to come up with a reason why I’m watching said movie.

I guess, in this case, it’s to see Michael Keaton have a whole lot of fun playing off of himself with various shades of personality (one more masculine, one more effeminate, and one dumb as a brick). Any Harold Ramis movie is usually good for at least one watch, and I feel that’s the case here. It’s a one-watcher. And now I have no regrets.

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