Multiplicity (1996)

Doug Kinney (Michael Keaton) is a man with a high-pressure life. Between work, his marriage to Laura (Andie MacDowell), and raising a daughter, he has little time for himself. His priorities, in order: First, work. Second, family. And at a distant third, Doug.

But Doug just may find a solution to juggling all of the different responsibilities of his life when he’s approaced by Dr. Owen Leeds (Harris Yulin). Is Leeds a psychologist, perhaps? A life coach? Neither — he’s a geneticist… and the solution he proposes is cloning!

Multiplicity was released in 1996 and directed by Harold Ramis (Groundhog Day). The screenplay was written by Chris Miller, Mary Hale, Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel from a short story by Miller.

(Image via flickfacts.com)

(Image via flickfacts.com)

A few things attracted me to this film. First, the director: Dr. Egon Spengler himself. (I realized this film was available on Hulu just a couple of days after seeing Ghostbusters on the big screen and couldn’t pass it up, due to my Ghostbusters-related appreciation for Ramis.)

Second, the premise sounded like a lot of fun. Man clones self because he doesn’t have enough hours in the day to handle all of his responsibilities? Sounds like as much of a genius as the guy who invented a device that could shrink people. I figured I’d get at least a few laughs out of it.

And “a few laughs” is what I got — that, and nothing more. I was pretty disappointed by this film for the most part. Many of the complications that arise from the cloning scenario can be seen coming from a mile away (the clones not being able to stay quiet while living in hiding, one clone getting a little too friendly with Doug’s wife, etc.). Predictability isn’t always a bad thing, but this film just had the potential to be so much funnier and more inventive.

That being said, there are a few positives here. The opening titles are pretty clever, in a corny way. The names of the lead cast, the name of the director, and the film’s title appear on the screen multiple times, because… “multiplicity.” Badum-tsk.

The special effects are pretty good for the film being nearly 20 years old. (A moment of silence to recover from the terror of realizing that 1996 was so long ago.) In most scenes, the “clones” are believable as multiple people standing in a room together. Not as believable as Lindsay Lohan and Lindsay Lohan in the Parent Trap remake, but almost.

Keaton was a good choice to lead the film. He pulls off his multiple characters quite well, injecting a very distinct personality into each of them. The supporting cast is strong overall, too. It’s just a shame they weren’t given more exciting material to work with.

The score: 2/5

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5 thoughts on “Multiplicity (1996)

    • Paul S says:

      The mystery of the nineties that was never solved…..
      Michael Keaton is always gold to me, although I do feel like every 80s-90s comedy could be improved by having Bill Murray as the lead.

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      • Lindsey says:

        Interesting. I’m a fan of both Murray and Keaton — and am in agreement with you that a lot of films from that era could benefit from Murray’s involvement. Not sure he could have saved Multiplicity, though! Keaton’s performance was the best part of the film for me. No matter who was put in the lead, the script would still be a stinker haha.

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  1. Todd Benefiel says:

    Like you, I thought this film was just so-so for something with such potential. But it was memorable for being the movie that got me to realize how expensive it had become to go to a movie: my girlfriend and I bought tickets, a tub of popcorn, and two drinks, and the cost was well over $20, which in 1996 was a shock. From that point on for us, it was matinees, a bag of popcorn, and our own drinks carried in her very big purse.

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