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'Making Mr. Right' (PG-13)

By Rita Kempley
Washington Post Staff Writer
April 10, 1987

Ask yourself this question: If you were "Making Mr. Right," would he look like John Malkovich? That is to say pasty-faced, gawky and going bald? Myself, I would be thinking more along the lines of People magazine's "Sexiest Man Alive 1987" Harry Hamlin, or maybe Remar Sutton.

Malkovich stars in this romantic interface between bionic boy and retrofitted girl, a comic love story that asks, Can a living doll have a meaningful relationship with an artificially intelligent, anatomically correct android? (And if so, why not just date your Dustbuster?)

Yes, "Blade Runner" has already pondered the question, and Dr. Frankenstein's piteous monster the reverse -- both of them more persuasively than this "Mr. Right," a well-dressed but disappointing encore for "Desperately Seeking Susan" director Susan Seidelman.

Screenwriters Floyd Byars and Laurie Frank's flapjack-flat characters meander through a slack plot that aims to address love between life-forms. The message can be summed up in a quote from the uncorrupted (or is it uncorroded?) component-parts hero: "When people learn how to love and care for those who love them, then they may become more than just machines." (Love means never having to say you're soldered?)

Real woman meets replicant when she's hired by the Chemtech Corporation to turn the android Ulysses into the perfect talk-show guest -- to gain publicity and therefore more funds for continuing the robotics project that produced him. It's a premise with comic promise, but it sputters like a dying can of mousse.

Malkovich doubles as Dr. Jeff Peters and his creation Ulysses, the only sympathetic character in the bunch. When this lovable bucket of bolts is not onscreen, it becomes all the more obvious that something went wrong while they were "Making Mr. Right." Namely, Ms. Right.

Ann Magnuson, a comedian with limited experience in film, may be well-built, but she certainly proves bland as imagemaker Frankie (nudge, nudge) Stone. Frankie Stone teaches Ulysses to look into a person's eyes and act interested in what he or she says. Thus revamped, Ulysses breaks out of the lab, has a brief encounter with mall culture, and finally becomes a celebutante.

Of course, as we all know, boy who meets girl must lose girl. Even if the boy is made of plastic and the girl is a woman of the '80s who owns a PC and saw "$6 Million Man." But love prevails. Yes, we have come a long way in the decade that separates "Looking for Mr. Goodbar" (1977) from "Making Mr. Right." And we can only conclude that women have decided that machinery is less trouble than men. Now where did I put that screwdriver?

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