June 3rd, 2010 | by KELLY CLARKE News | Posted In: CLEAN UP, CLEAN UP

It's No Species: Splice Reviewed

Vincenzo Natali's genetically altered animal-baby drama wasn't screened in time for WW's press deadlines. The lab results didn't come back too positive:

Splice

Splice

WW Critic's Score: 58

Scientists are assholes. At least, according to practically every movie ever made, scientists are assholes. They experiment on animals, unwilling humans and themselves—rarely caring for the consequences, which inevitably turn out to be alive, intelligent and bloodthirsty. Movies have taught us that if you fuck with nature, it will fuck you back—both figuratively and, in the case of Splice, literally. Splice takes this big screen convention to a new level: namely, what happens if you create a hybrid human-animal baby in the name of scientific hubris and then turn out to be particularly crappy parents.

The parents, in this case, are Elsa and Clive (Sarah Polley and Adrien Brody), a pair of rockstar geneticists who create giant pulsating grubs—spliced together from a Cuisinart smoothie of animal DNA—packed with cells designed to help cure bovine diseases. They take lab breaks to shoot cover photos for Wired magazine and dazzle investors at press conferences. Of course, the pair wants to up the ante and add human bits to their genetic cocktail. Of course, their investors don't. Of course, they do it anyway. Enter, Dren, a fantastically CGI-rendered splice-baby who grows up (monstrously fast) to look like a pouty cross between a kangaroo, a bluebird and a French supermodel. Her teen years do not end well.

Splice puts a welcome twist on the mad movie scientist by pairing the usual memes of egotistical behavior and scientific boundary pushing with the real life fear of raising kids. But unfortunately, director/co-writer Natali (Cube) is so enamored of his clever, highbrow dual story arc he makes little room for lowbrow movie stuff like chills, blood or humor. These scientists are smart and stylish—we know this because they wear funky plaid pants and decorate their home with giant manga paintings. But their dialogue often ping pongs back and forth like a dispirited ethics debate: "There may be moral considerations, here!" Brody yells. "Hundreds of people may be dying," Polley yells back, regarding the merits of holding off on using human DNA. "What are the moral considerations of that!?!" This goes on for a while. The action heats up and people eventually start dying, but far too late for anybody to really care.

We've seen this kind of storyline before, and better. We already know what's coming next when a researcher says, "the specimen is growing at an abnormally fast rate!" We already know that oddly adorable Dren, who chirps and chitters like a pink velociraptor, is going to eventually have issues with her adoptive human mom, especially when she insists on feeding her a green gruel made of roughage, bean curd and enriched starch. I'd crave blood too. While the film creates an interesting scientific conundrum, asking where an experiment ends and a family begins, it has trouble deciding what it wants to be—it's neither over-the-top gory nor genuinely chilling enough for a horror flick or creepy thriller, nor brain-bending enough for a Cronenberg-ish sci-fi classic. [Note: Sundance Film Fest attendees disagree with me on this. They liked it. Whatever. They probably don't see the campy genius at work in Species, either.]

Out of this slow-paced mess, Polley's Elsa shines as an haughty, determined nerd, whose background of unspecified abuse at the hands of her batshit crazy mom has left her more comfortable with Bunsen burners than human babies. As her boyfriend and lab partner, Brody mostly stumbles around looking alternately harried and turned on—by humans and almost-human creatures—perhaps in search of the man who won an Oscar and kissed Halle Berry in front of millions of TV viewers only eight years ago.

It's not all bad. There is a particularly great scene involving a battle between two Corgi-sized genetically engineered protozoa. Also, [GIANT TOO GOOD TO PASS UP SPOILER HERE] two-thirds of the way through the stolid film, Brody gets busy with his adopted splice-baby daughter in what I'm guessing is the most explicit man-on-animal-hybrid boning scene ever. Later, the creature spontaneously changes sex and rapes its mom-scientist. [END GIANT TOO GOOD TO PASS UP SPOILER]

This is not nearly as great as it sounds. If fact, it is pretty boring.

As a deterrent for human-animal breeding, Splice is excellent. But as an experiment in entertaining movie-making, it's tough to call it a success. R.

Broadway Metro 4 Theatres, Century 16 Cedar Hills Crossing, Century at Clackamas Town Center, Century Eastport 16, Cinema 99 Stadium 11, Cinemas Bridgeport Village Stadium 18&IMAX, City Center Stadium 12, Cornelius 9 Cinemas, Division Street Stadium 13, Evergreen Parkway Stadium 13, Hilltop 9 Cinema, Lloyd Center Stadium 10 Cinema, Movies On TV Stadium 16, Sherwood Stadium 10, Tigard 11 Cinemas, Wilsonville Stadium 9 Cinema.
 
  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
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