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S1m0ne

Al Pacino as a movie director who creates his very own cyber-babe actor? As pitches go this sounds like it ought to be downloaded straight into the nearest toilet. But before you flush, let's point out that it's written and directed by Andrew Niccol, the man who scribbled The Truman Show, as well as writing and directing fascinating future yarn Gattaca. Surely those credentials are enough to keep it from getting the three-fingered salute of CTRL-ALT-DEL right away?

Or maybe not, because anyone expecting another polished thought-provoker is surely going to be sorely disappointed by this shallow satire. The plot's formulaic, as director Viktor Taransky (Pacino) decides he's finally had enough of the ludicrous demands of his talentless lead actress, a "supermodel with a SAG card" (Winona Ryder). Instead he decides to try out some new virtual reality software known as "Simulation One". Complications arise when S1m0ne (played by uncredited unknown Rachel Roberts) is so good, the public end up thinking she's real.

Somewhere in here is a movie that could have done to showbiz what Wag The Dog did to politics, but Niccol's script lacks the hard drive needed to keep it from crashing in the first act. He snipes at some very obvious targets - - Hollywood is obsessed with image rather than substance, dontcha know? - - but doesn't even have the wit to manage that well. The subtext-heavy script is just barely given life through Pacino's enthusiasm, Catherine Keener's talent and the comic efforts of Jason Schwartzmann and Pruitt Taylor Vince as a pair of paparazzi (""I had something on Mother Teresa once... But then she died"").

Maybe this is one of Niccol's early scripts, pulled out of the bottom draw and dusted off without a rewrite. Covering the same ground as both The Truman Show (simulated existence, the pernicious nature of the media) and Gattaca (the ways that technology changes our lives for better and for worse), S1m0ne tries to be an incisive comedy, but it's really nothing much more than an innocuous time-passer.

Leftfield comedies ought to leave you with something to think about. After watching this flawed satire, you'll simply be shrugging your shoulders.

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