Review by Derrick Carter
Running Time: 1 hour 57 minutes
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for Sexual Situations
Directed by: Harold Ramis
Written by: Chris Miller, Mary Hale, Harold Ramis, Lowell Ganz & Babaloo Mandel
Starring: Michael Keaton, Andie MacDowell, Zack Duhame, Katie Schlossberg, Harris Yulin, Richard Masur & Eugene Levy
When most people hear the name Harold Ramis, they usually think of GHOSTBUSTERS or GROUNDHOG DAY. They might even think of ANALYZE THIS, but 1996’s MULTIPLICITY doesn’t seem to be brought up in enough conversations. This film was not a success upon its release, debuting at #7 in its opening weekend and making less than half of its budget back at the box office. This is a bummer, because MULTIPLICITY is a great sci-fi romantic comedy that’s been buried by the passage of time. Featuring effects that remain impressive today, a light-hearted atmosphere that just doesn’t quit and lots of laughs, MULTIPLCITY deserves to be rediscovered.
Doug Kinney (Michael Keaton) is a stressed out construction worker who barely has time for his family. Being overwhelmed with his job and life itself, Doug happens to cross paths with mad scientist Dr. Leeds (Harris Yulin). This strange man specializes in making dreams come true through a state-of-the-art cloning process. Doug decides to sign up for the procedure and walks away with macho work-obsessed Two (also Michael Keaton). Eventually life begins to overwhelm the two Dougs, so feminine Three (still Michael Keaton) and dim-witted Four (were you expecting anyone else besides Michael Keaton?) enter the picture. Doug’s three clones begin to form their own distinct personalities as the days pass by and soon, Doug finds himself trying to keep his life together…in spite of the very clones that were created to save it.
Decades before receiving two Academy Award nominations, Michael Keaton displayed serious versatility in his acting. Besides playing Batman and a couple of villains, Keaton was mainly known for goofy comedic characters. In MULTIPLICITY, he’s playing four very different types of comedy. As Doug, he’s a stressed out father/husband trying to keep his life together without going crazy. As Two, he’s a man’s man who becomes obsessed with work and isn’t afraid to get into other people’s faces. As Three, he’s an overly feminine and detail oriented person. As Four, he’s kind of annoying to an over-the-top degree, but still managed to get a few laughs out of me. It says something for Keaton’s performances when you can tell all of these characters apart simply from body language and speech patterns.
As you might imagine, MULTIPLICITY’s comedy derives from misunderstandings, mix-ups and crazy scenarios. Though the premise constantly runs on suspense of the clones running into each other in the public places and in front of Doug’s family, the film doesn’t feel like it’s forcing any of these moments at all. One particularly funny bit comes from the three clones running into Doug’s wife on the same night…all to receive a similar response from her. Another scene in a restaurant balances suspense and goofiness as I was actually wondering “Okay, how are they going to get out of this one?” The film has lots of humor that works and steadily keeps momentum going through its main plot that connects all four Dougs.
As Doug’s wife, Andie MacDowell is a woman on the edge and brings more serious aspects into the story. You might feel like Doug is a jerk for even going through this cloning process to begin with. That’s sort of the point though and it makes the ultimate story arc that much more satisfying. Though people who aren’t fans of awkward humor (think MEET THE PARENTS or NATHAN FOR YOU) may find themselves cringing at parts of this film through their fingers, most viewers will likely get a kick out of this underappreciated comedy.
MULTIPLICITY also dazzles in its special effects that hold up perfectly today. Michael Keaton was essentially playing four different roles and acting off his own imagination for a majority of his scenes. The four Keatons sitting together on a couch or hanging out in the garage all come off as totally convincing to look at. I know that camera tricks are obviously used in films where an actor is playing twins, but MULTIPLICITY constantly has Michael Keaton coming face to face with himself. It’s hard to imagine the pain-staking level of work and attention to detail this must have taken to perfect, but the results look flawless. With these special effects, smart writing, and plenty of laughs to be had, MULTIPLICITY is worth a viewing…or two…or three…or even four!