Electric Dreams (1984)

6 Apr


Smith’s Verdict: ***

Reviewed by Tanner Smith

“Electric Dreams” takes a story about as old and as predictable as a romance could get and adds new twists to create a delightful movie. You know that old story of how boy meets girl, boy gets help from his buddy to impress her, and buddy becomes jealous to see how well the boy and girl are getting along? What if the buddy was a computer? Yes, there’s a love triangle in this movie in which the third wheel is a computer.

The computer falls in love. Now, that’s a wonderful idea for a movie. Not only does the computer fall in love, but it also gets jealous—jealous enough to try everything it can to get its owner out of the picture so it can have the girl to itself.

The owner is a shy nerdy guy named Miles, played by Lenny von Dohlen in a likable performance. He buys himself a home computer to get things organized for him, since everyone else has their own pocket organizers. It’s tough trying to get it to work at first, but he soon gets the gist of it…or so he thinks.

Enter the woman who moves into Miles’ apartment building—a fetching cellist, played by Virginia Madsen. Miles feels something for her, and the feeling is mutual. They go out a few times. But what neither of them realize is that the woman thinks that Miles can create great music. You see, earlier in the movie, as the computer gains its “brain” (whatever), it eavesdrops on the woman’s cello practice through a ventilation duct and plays musical notes by itself to follow along, in a duet that is easily the movie’s best scene.

But Miles realizes that the computer talks and has a mind of its own and asks it to create a love song for his new girlfriend. After wrongfully guessing what it sees on TV is appropriate for lyrics and rhythm, Miles helps it out with his own feelings. The result is a beautiful song that Miles takes the credit for, which makes the computer jealous because the computer has fallen in love.

Just thinking about the plotline makes me smile and the movie is just as winning, although maybe a little silly in most eyes, as it goes along. There’s an MTV-style as it goes with its song sequences (particularly with the duet, the love song, and the title song at the end) that gives the movie its energy, but what really makes “Electric Dreams” a nice movie are the central elements, like the actors and the computer. Lenny von Dohlen and Virginia Madsen are great together and separate. Von Dohlen does a good job as this wimpy nerd, and Madsen plays her character as attractive, but not shallow.

But credit should also be given to how well the filmmakers did with the computer. With wonderful voice acting by Bud Cort as the computer’s voice, this is a self-learning computer with a personality of its own. It not only makes for effective comedy, but also for really touching moments, particularly in the final act of the movie.

“Electric Dreams” has an innocence and charm within its characters, the direction, and that wonderful computer that gives me reason to recommend it to those who could use a nice-enough love story. I mean, how often do you come across the rivalry between a man and a machine over the woman they both love?


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