There may be advantages to watching "Creator" rather than staring at, say, the Washington Monument for two hours, but none are readily apparent. How did a movie this mindlessly saccharine ever get made?

Jeremy Leven has adapted the film from his best-selling novel, and it goes something like this: Harry Wolper (Peter O'Toole) is a Nobel Prize-winning biologist, a widower who has kept the cells of his wife alive for 30 years, in hopes of cloning her. In this quest, he hires a young research assistant, Boris (Vincent Spano), who toils with him long into the night.

Wolper's colleague and adversary, Sid (David Ogden Stiers), thinks he's crazy (as in "absolutely crazy," "definitely crazy" and "the bottom line is: Harry Wolper is crazy"), but what really annoys him is Wolper's talk of God, religion and something he calls "the Big Picture." Boris, on the other hand, is intrigued by this blather, and finally discovers, joyfully, that the Big Picture is nothing more complex than Love. Ah, love! It's "like this beautiful light that lets you see things no one else can see," as Wolper's perky mistress (Mariel Hemingway) tells us in a typical flight of "Creator's" poetry. It's more powerful than science -- it can even revive the dead (I'm not kidding).

"Creator" is full of the kind of impossibly cutesy stuff every grad student must think of when he boozily creates the mythos of his life -- Boris has a robot that wakes him up in the morning, and his girlfriend (that Raphaelite beauty Virginia Madsen) has cats named Penelope and Ulysses, and a dog named Agamemnon.

Cutesy, too, is O'Toole, once again playing Peter O'Toole. It's sad to see this shell of an actor doddering through another Lovable Old Eccentric role, for there's still enough left of him, in the way his deliberate timing detonates some rather awful lines, to remind you how brilliant he might be. Spano is rather squirrelly in the lead -- meekness ill-suits him -- and Hemingway saws her way through a self-conscious actor's turn as an ingratiating tramp. Stiers does much snarling, little acting; and for all his jogging, swimming, weightlifting and racquetball-playing, appears to have swallowed a watermelon.

"Creator" pulls out many a chin-hair mulling over whether scientists should play God. Wolper soulfully muses, "It's said that when science finally peers over the crest of the mountain, it will find that religion has been sitting there all along," while Boris sits dewy-eyed at his knee. How any research gets done is anyone's guess, because the characters spend most of their time in deep heart-to-hearts, walking on the beach and walking bicycles through an arboreal dell. Director Ivan Passer has composed these scenes in the maudlin style of perfume commercials, and if you're lucky, that windsong doesn't stay on your mind -- it whistles right through it.

CREATOR, at area theaters, is rated R and contains considerable profanity and nudity in sexual situations.