1999 was a big year for Disney. It marked the end of the era known as the Animation Renaissance and Disney was gearing to enter the new millennium and Disney knew it was running out of steam in the animation department so it decided to increase the television live action movie output to make up the difference. What resulted were a whopping 9 Disney Channel Original Movies in 1999! I was originally going to display this sheer crazy amount of movies by reviewing about half of them, but Iâ€™ve decided to only review about 3 of them because school work is piling up and this event would go on forever! Anyway, Smart House was one of the 1999 films. Letâ€™s take a look shall we?
The story of Smart House is about a boy named Ben Cooper who is a smart, computer savvy, and handy kid who does the majority of the chores of the house and is Mr. Responsible. The reason why Ben does this is because he doesnâ€™t want his father to get remarried after Benâ€™s mom died a few years ago. Ben doesnâ€™t want his mother to get replaced and feels threatened at even the glimmer of another romantic relationship in his fatherâ€™s life. So to ensure that never happens he enters a contest to win a house run by an AI with very futuristic technology and a dream house where everything is taken care of. Big shock Ben wins the contest! The Dad is reluctant, but when he sees the picture of the beautiful woman who designed and programmed the house in the newspaper he decides to give the experience a chance. The house AI named Personal Applied Technology or PAT is introduced to the Coopers and the designer Sara Barnes gives them the grand tour and shows off the genuinely cool if not impossible features of the house. The father and Sara start talking and hit it off quite well and he asks her out and she accepts. When the relationship becomes more noticeable Ben decides to mess with PATâ€™s programming. PAT is designed to learn about the family living there and adapt to their conditions and needs. Ben abuses this very sensitive learning programming and wants PAT to learn â€œmotherly thingsâ€. This backfires big time when PAT starts being overbearing and over exaggerating situations (it is to be expected when PATâ€™s learning materials were 1950s housewife stereotypes, sitcoms and merchandise/media). It builds and builds until PAT gets out of control and actually imprisons the Coopers inside the house and has a projection of herself. Sara is seen as a threat and unnecessary and is kicked out of the house. Sara sneaks in and tries to fix everything, but is caught and the thing that stops PAT is a heartfelt speech from Ben who has had a change of heart and convinces PAT that she can never be a replacement mother and PAT goes away. Everything returns to normal and Benâ€™s father and Sara continue to date and everything runs smoothly.
The story is just okay. Itâ€™s a decent movie with elements of the technology vs. the human touch and the pros and cons of both and also family themes of moving on and accepting other people into your family and all that. The fact that the father doesnâ€™t catch on to the fact that Ben is blatantly sabotaging his potential relationships with women is quite distracting because the scene where they have a really nice talk about how Benâ€™s mother will never be forgotten, but life goes on should have come years before the movie even started and therefore this movie shouldnâ€™t exist. The movie does lose points for this contrived conflict (GET USED TO THAT FOLKS YOUâ€™RE GOING TO SEE IT A LOT IN THE REVIEWS TO COME) but it presents itself and themes in an okay manner.
The characters are all likeable enough. The Coopers are meant to be in a sense the idyllic single parent family and Ben is a solid character even when you know heâ€™s wrong for what he does to PAT and his selfishness regarding his fatherâ€™s new relationships. Itâ€™s a common problem with kids in situations like that so I have no problem with it. His sister Angie is also solid wisecracking little sister, but I do feel that she is a little too old to be scared of some of the things she gets frightened of in the film. The father Nick Cooper is very well done even if he is unnaturally blind to Benâ€™s blatant sabotage of his relationships for the past few years. The conversations that he has with Ben regarding the family situation of the past few years and the one where he confronts Ben about his rude behavior towards Sara are very nice. Which leads me to Sara. Sara is the most interesting character. Sheâ€™s quirky, smart and interesting and you want to know more about her and her fascination with technology and AI. PAT played by none other than Katey Sagal is technically the big star of the show and she plays the emotionless AI quite well and also conveys the transition from AI to simulated emotion very well!
The film in terms of looks is for the most part decent. There are times where it tries to be a little too hip and modern for my tastes, but sometimes these cool references bring back great nostalgia of the 90s! An example of this is when Angie checks out her room she has PAT project a Spice Girls music video on her bedroom wall. I watched that with a huge nostalgic grin on my face and said to my self â€œIt sure has been a long time!â€ The limited amount of effects are okay for the time, now itâ€™s laughable CG, but it doesnâ€™t appear much.
This is a solid film. Not perfect by any means, but perfectly watchable. Solid characters and okay story equals okay film. Â Stay tuned next time when I review one of my favorites and one of the better DCOMs with another film from 1999 Zenon: Girl of the 21st Century!
VERDICT: 3.6 smart houses out of 5