A not wholly successful blend of the requisite aspects of a Schwarzenegger action picture and a reasonably thoughtful take on the gradual erosion of humanity through technology, The 6th Day manages to be constantly entertaining, if never distinguished. Director Roger Spottiswoode (possibly chosen to lend a certain moral weightiness to the picture, based on his handling of such serious TV-film fare as Hiroshima and And the Band Played On) does what he can to both keep the proceedings moving and prevent the film’s more cerebral concerns from being lost in the pyrotechnics and car-chase shuffle. He succeeds far better at the former than the latter, though this is more the fault of the script by Cormac and Marianne Wibberley — which tries a little too hard to be all things to all people and never seems quite certain of its own point of view. The basic premise is no great shakes: Adam Gibson (Scwarzenegger) suddenly find his place in life taken by a clone of himself, an idea that’s hardly original to The 6th Day (in fact, it smacks a good bit of Woody Allen’s plan to take over the world with doubles in Casino Royale, only here it’s played straight). The idea, however, works well to set up a drama that is as much about the dehumanization of mankind by the encroachment of technology as it is a sci-fi thriller. Such depictions as the unbelievably grotesque Simpal, a simulated “best-friend” doll, and Gibson’s sidekick (Michael Rapaport), a virtual-reality sex “goddess,” are actually the best parts of the film. But these bright spots are undercut by the script’s inability to resist wallowing in trite humor. The larger issues of identity and the ethical and moral implications of cloning fall prey to the film’s need to supply the expected action scenes, Schwarzeneggerian one-liners, and, worse yet, a desire to be both for and against cloning simultaneously. Essentially, the movie denounces cloning (and most modern technology) with an almost Biblical fervor for three-quarters of its length, only to decide doubling’s not such a bad thing by the end of the story. As a result, The 6th Day not only doesn’t have the courage of its convictions, but seems uncertain as to what those convictions actually are. The script also suffers from an inability to convey a convincing portrait of a futuristic society, as when it depicts schoolchildren in home-made costumes cavorting to that old kiddie standard, “The Teddy Bears Picnic” — an event that would have been quaint-looking 30 or 40 years ago. The film does achieve some degree of seriousness for all its fuzzy point of view and wrong moves, especially in the portrayal of cloning genius Dr. Graham Weir (Robert Duvall). Duvall lends a certain dignity to any film in which he appears, whether the film deserves it or not. At the end, though, The 6th Day is essentially a somewhat thoughtful but not-too-taxing-vehicle for its star, whose die-hard fans will not be disappointed by his action antics, his jokey acting and his ability to deliver throwaway comic asides in the face of adversity. It’s fun and entertaining, but The 6th Day just doesn’t manage to cross over into the realm of being the “something more” it obviously wishes it was.
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