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The Lawnmower Man (1992)

R | | Horror, Sci-Fi | 6 March 1992 (USA)
Trailer
2:03 | Trailer
A simple man is turned into a genius through the application of computer science.

Director:

Brett Leonard

Writers:

Stephen King (title only), Brett Leonard (screenplay) | 1 more credit »
Reviews
Popularity
4,077 ( 72)
3 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Jeff Fahey ... Jobe Smith
Pierce Brosnan ... Dr. Lawrence Angelo
Jenny Wright ... Marnie Burke
Mark Bringelson ... Sebastian Timms
Geoffrey Lewis ... Terry McKeen
Jeremy Slate ... Father Francis McKeen
Dean Norris ... The Director
Colleen Coffey ... Caroline Angelo
Jim Landis Jim Landis ... Ed Walts
Troy Evans ... Lieutenant Goodwin
Rosalee Mayeux ... Carla Parkette
Austin O'Brien ... Peter Parkette
Michael Gregory ... Security Chief
Joe Hart ... Patrolman Cooley
John Laughlin ... Jake Simpson
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Storyline

A scientist performs experiments involving intelligence enhancing drugs and virtual reality on a simple-minded gardener. He puts the gardener on an extensive schedule of learning, and quickly he becomes brilliant. But at this point the gardener has a few ideas of his own on how the research should continue, and the scientist begins losing control of his experiments. Written by Ed Sutton <esutton@mindspring.com>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

God made him simple. Science made him a god.

Genres:

Horror | Sci-Fi

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for language, sensuality and a scene of violence | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

UK | USA | Japan

Language:

English

Release Date:

6 March 1992 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Stephen King's The Lawnmower Man See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$10,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$7,751,971, 8 March 1992

Gross USA:

$32,100,816

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$32,100,816
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

| (director's cut)

Sound Mix:

Dolby SR

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Jenny Wright (Marnie) did only the close-ups in the VR strobe scene, because the strobe light made her sick. Her wide-angle shots were done using a double, and the close-ups of her face were done with a bluescreen, so that she didn't have to move. See more »

Goofs

As Dr. Angelo is telling Caroline that she doesn't understand what he is going through, he rubs his eyes with his empty left hand in close-up. In the next shot, a cigarette has suddenly appeared in his hand as he pulls his hand from his eyes. See more »

Quotes

Jobe Smith: By the year 2001, there won't be a person on this planet who isn't hooked into it, and hooked into me.
See more »

Crazy Credits

At the start of the movie, just after the New Line Cinema logo, the following Virtual Reality 'statement' is given (the director stated that this was rewritten many times): By the turn of the millenium a technology known as VIRTUAL REALITY will be in widespread use. It will allow you to enter computer generated artificial worlds as unlimited as the imagination itself. Its creators foresee millions of positive uses - while others fear it as a new from of mind control... See more »

Alternate Versions

Shout! Factory's Blu-ray editions of the film (both the theatrical and director's cut) are missing the first second of it, a piano note of score that plays over black before the New Line logo comes into view. They also both omit the Stephen King credit. See more »

Connections

Referenced in Saturday Night Live: Pierce Brosnan/Destiny's Child (2001) See more »

Soundtracks

Man Wants
Written by Gregg Leonard, Joel Hazard, Elizabeth Presley
Performed by Creative Rite
Courtesy of Reality Buffers Music
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

 
An enjoyable trainwreck
10 July 2005 | by BrandtSponsellerSee all my reviews

Given the absolute trainwreck that this film is in many respects, it's surprising that the story works as well as it does once it gets going. The middle of the film is actually somewhat engaging, there are scenes where odd flashes of competence shine through, and the beginning of the climax, at least, is pretty suspenseful, even though it peters out when it should be reaching a fevered pitch. Even with the plethora of problems, The Lawnmower Man is worth watching for fans of "so bad it's good" films (even though this isn't exactly so bad that it's good), just to witness the atrocious special effects (almost all CGI) and the bizarre concatenation of elements that it's almost impossible to imagine anyone thought would be a good idea if they weren't intentionally shooting for a comedy or an absurdist genre film. Yes, director/writer Brett Leonard, co-writer Gimel Everett and the production team were serious, and thought that they were producing a cutting-edge, hip and thrilling genre film--something like the Matrix of its time. That alone is funny enough once you've seen a few minutes of the film to make this worth a watch.

The story has two protagonists, one of which eventually becomes something of an anti-hero. The film begins with a text prediction about just how prevalent and influential virtual reality will be at the turn of the 21st Century. In retrospect, it underscores just how ridiculously inflated revolutionary or "savior" technology predictions tend to be. We then meet Dr. Lawrence Angelo (Pierce Brosnan before he was in a position to turn down starring roles), who is engaged in virtual reality research for the government (his superiors call their project/division "The Shop"). He's experimenting on monkeys, and per his superior's orders, the focus is on military uses--the monkey is being virtual reality trained in battle strategy while they're manipulating its aggression levels. As anyone who has seen at least two or three genre films could guess, this ends up backfiring. The monkey freaks out and runs rampant through the secret government facility, attacking employees.

Dr. Angelo semi-voluntarily goes on hiatus. He had wanted to eventually test human subjects for susceptibility to his virtual reality "mind expansion", without the emphasis on violence, but that seems a lost cause. However, after his wife leaves him, he decides that maybe he can do the research on his own. He decides that the perfect test subject is the titular lawnmower man--his neighbor Jobe Smith (Jeff Fahey). Jobe happens to be developmentally disabled. Of course, things do not go exactly as planned with the tests on Jobe, either, especially once The Shop gets wind of what Dr. Angelo is doing.

The Lawnmower Man grew out of a Stephen King short story that most famously appeared in his Night Shift collection. The King story is only a few pages long, and it bears almost no resemblance to the film. The only scene that's at all similar is the one involving a lawn mower and Peter Parkette's (Austin O'Brien) father. It might be informative for those who have a less than consistently favorable opinion of King-oriented films to note that King sued to have any reference to his name removed. I actually like most King-oriented films, but I find the suit amusing, too.

What makes The Lawnmower Man such a trainwreck? The most prominent problem, because it is such a focus of the film, is the CGI. When Dr. Angelo is working with human subjects in The Shop's facilities, they wear "spiffy" spandex suits reminiscent of Tron (1982). That may be enough of a problem in itself (and just who made those suits if Dr. Angelo had never been authorized to work with humans?), but the bigger problem is that the CGI is also reminiscent of Tron. That's not to say that Tron isn't successful, but it had very primitive CGI. There, it was more excusable for three reasons. One, it was made in the late 1970s/early 1980s, when CGI _had_ to be much more primitive. Two, realizing this, Tron director Steven Lisberger aimed at creating more of a minimalist world. And three, once introduced to us, most of Tron took place in that world.

By the early 1990s, computer graphics had progressed quite a bit. Yet, Leonard allows The Lawnmower Man's CGI sequences to almost exclusively consist of brightly colored, low-resolution, simple geometric shapes floating around in a featureless world. Admittedly, The Lawnmower Man was a bit low-budgeted. But I'm not sure that excuses computer graphics that look like they were done on a Commodore 64 by someone working through a basic pixel animation book. And this stuff is supposed to "accelerate the evolution of the human mind?" It wouldn't matter so much if this were not the crux of the film. But the CGI is as important here as the scenes inside The Matrix are to that film. The effects work a bit better when they're integrated with cinematography. But Leonard avoids that more than he should.

And the CGI isn't the only problem. The story otherwise is extremely awkward. Most of it is unintentionally absurdist. Jobe lives in a little shack in an otherwise normal suburban neighborhood. A sadistic priest regularly flogs him. A beautiful widow seduces him. Peter's family is almost a spoof of the typical King family, with an abusive, alcoholic father. All of these people bizarrely live right next door to Dr. Angelo. I could go on and on, but there isn't room.

Still, there are aspects of the story that work. When Leonard finally gets around to death scenes, they're pretty good. The suspense stuff when Dr. Angelo is in Washington is good. And the overall arc about Jobe transforming, but getting out of control and seeking revenge is enjoyable, pithy and certainly a classic, archetypal plot. But this isn't anything if it's not a mixed bag. Watch expecting a trainwreck, and you should be entertained for an evening.


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