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S1mØne (2002)
Director: Andrew Niccol

review by Rob Marshall

When Eddie Murphy co-starred with Robert De Niro in Showtime, everyone was asking 'can De Niro do comedy?' On the evidence of this tragic farce (but with a happy ending), Al Pacino - the only comparable superstar of De Niro's stature - certainly can, even if he still wears his familiar hangdog expression most of the time.
   Failed Hollywood director Viktor Taransky (Pacino) inherits a computer program called 'simulation one' which enables him to insert virtual performer 'Simone' into his latest production when the volatile leading lady storms off the set and out of the studio. The film is an unexpected critical success when finally released with the beautiful yet elusive new starlet and, as the media publicity machine shifts into overdrive, Taransky's career benefits from the reflected glamour. However, he soon becomes embroiled in evermore-complicated schemes to exploit Simone's celebrity without anyone finding out that she doesn't exist...
   Andrew Niccol, maker of the overrated Gattaca (1997), constructs this entertaining yet unimaginative borderline-SF like a series of shadow puppet shows. Here, a filmmaker's directing is equated with a magician's misdirection, and there are humorous asides with obsessed fans and nosy reporters. Instead of an exploration of the potentially fascinating concerns of public persona versus private life, and the impact of stardom on personality, we get a stadium concert without a real singer and endless airbrushed magazine covers, as proof that audiences just want fabulous images, not human truth.
   S1mØne is a leisurely paced popcorn movie lacking sufficient wry social commentary on the impact of today's CG characters, particularly those styled after Japanese animation idols, designed to appeal to youth culture. It delivers nothing more than a few chuckles and, in spite of Pacino's best efforts as the ambitious Taransky, it fails to be as delirious as it might have been with Bill Murray or Steve Martin in the lead.
S1mone

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