D.A.R.Y.L. (1985)

17 Apr


Smith’s Verdict: ***

Reviewed by Tanner Smith

If there’s a kid who can win video games at the first try, hit home runs in his first baseball game, and even correct test answers before they’re given, you can already guess that there is far more to this kid than meets the eye. “D.A.R.Y.L.” is a sweet little movie about a boy who is the perfect kid. The kid’s name is Daryl and he is just one sweet, caring, and very talented little boy.

As the movie opens, Daryl (Barret Oliver, “The Neverending Story”) is found in the woods. He lost his memory; he doesn’t remember his family, his friends, his school, but he remembers his name and how to speak. He’s taken in by a nice couple who have fostered young children for quite some time now. Mary Beth Hurt is Joyce Richardson, a loving piano instructor; and Michael McKean is Andy, Joyce’s husband who coaches a local little league team. Joyce and Andy take a care to Daryl and the kid across the street, named Turtle, becomes his good friend. Daryl surprises his new family and friends by being extremely nice without forcing himself, getting a high score on “Pole Position” on the first try, and hitting home runs at Andy’s little league team’s game.

But once everything goes perfect, Daryl’s real family comes along to take him back. As they take Daryl away from his loving foster family, it becomes discovered by the audience (this is not necessarily a spoiler) that Daryl is in fact a government experiment. Daryl is taken back to the lab he was created in. What is he? Well, “D.A.R.Y.L.” stands for Data Analyzing Robot Youth Lifeform. That’s right—the perfect kid is in fact…a robot (or a cyborg, to be more specific).

The D.A.R.Y.L. experiment was originally planned and funded by the military to be a soldier of advanced proportion. A scientist freed him because he knew that there was more for him to learn. Daryl has absorbed more about love and interaction to his family and other kids and the military consider him a failure. Their decision—to have him “terminated.” However, Dr. Stewart (Josef Sommer), one of Daryl’s designers, knows that Daryl is more than what he was created to be, so he decides to free him and take him back to the Richardsons…with the authorities hot on their trail.

“D.A.R.Y.L.” opens with some genuine sweetness. It’s a great portrait of the world’s greatest kid moving in with a new family and making a great impression. Also, the friendship between the kid and Turtle is sweet—there’s a really good scene where Turtle gives Daryl some advice about grownups. There’s also another great scene where Daryl believes he upset Joyce because he’s so perfect, so he strikes out at the game on purpose.

Then, the movie escapes that mode when Daryl is taken back to the facility where he was created and soon targeted for determination. It turns the movie into a thriller and surprisingly enough, it works. We fear for the kid’s life while he’s being chased by the government. As a thriller, “D.A.R.Y.L.” surprisingly works because it feels like there’s really something at stake. It helps that Barret Oliver plays the kid with credibility, and Josef Summer is quite solid as his protector.

People may complain that “D.A.R.Y.L.” doesn’t quite live up to its opening but not me. I liked where “D.A.R.Y.L.” went, although I sort of wonder how I would’ve went from the wonderful beginning if I made the movie myself. But mind you, that’s not a criticism but more of a thoughtful self-question. “D.A.R.Y.L.” is a nicely-done movie.


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