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The Awkward Movie Challenge: The Lawnmower Man

February 01, 2010 By: Category: Greatest Hits, Movie Reviews, The Awkward Movie Challenge

movie-challenge-header

According to Netflix, Mike and Jeffrey agree with each other on movies 84% of the time. In their weekly feature, The Awkward Movie Challenge, they search valiantly for that sweet 16% that results in big arguments and big laughs.

Jeffrey:
The first two “adult” books I read when I was a kid were Judy Blume’s Wifey and Stephen King’s short-story collection Night Shift. I’m probably not the only child of the 70’s whose life was permanently changed in an icky way by Wifey. My parents should really have been locked up for keeping that book in the living room instead of hiding it away in their bedroom bookshelf with their Anaïs Nin books. Although I guess it wouldn’t have made much of a difference, since I read the Anaïs Nin books, too. Many, many times.

Night Shift didn’t make me feel icky in the same way that Wifey did, but it did introduce me to the thrill of being terrified. I would read my favorite stories over and over again, astounded that one writer could create so many goose-pimple-inducing scenarios. I’m sure much of it would come across as silly today—I haven’t read it since I was a kid—but at the time, Night Shift was as scary as scary could get.

Ohhh yeah, that's the stuff.

Night Shift is like the Paul’s Boutique of short story collections—just like you can spend an entire lifetime tracking down the samples from the Beastie Boys’ masterpiece, filmed versions of the stories from Night Shift sometimes crop up in the most bizarre places. Children of the Corn, Maximum Overdrive, Graveyard Shift, and The Mangler were all turned into feature films. Jerusalem’s Lot was made into the TV miniseries Salem’s Lot, which included a scene featuring a floating vampire kid from which I still haven’t quite recovered. Quitters, Inc. and The Ledge both became fun segments in the film anthology Cat’s Eye. Many of the other stories were adapted into short films, including The Last Rung on the Ladder, The Boogeyman, and The Woman in the Room. According to IMDB, Battleground was turned into a segment of a recent TNT show called Nightmares and Dreamscapes, but I swear I remember seeing it on another horror anthology show as a kid … can anyone confirm this?

Anyway, down at the bottom of this pile of films dwells a little piece of garbage called The Lawnmower Man (yes, it is even beneath Maximum Overdrive). The original short story was a goofy and somewhat disturbing (for a seven-year-old, anyway) tale of a crazed landscaper who mows a guy down with his killer lawnmower.

Are we not men?

The movie, on the other hand, is about a retarded guy who becomes a genius using virtual reality (of course) and tries to take over the Internet. Lest you think the film is completely divorced from King’s original vision, the titular character does really like mowing lawns.

The film starts out promisingly enough with a monkey in a sweet futuristic helmet. Pierce Brosnan plays Larry Angelo, a brilliant computer programmer who’s training the chimpanzee to manipulate objects in a virtual reality program Larry created that is supposed to make people smarter. There are some sinister guys at Larry’s corporation who want to use the program to turn people into really smart soldiers, or something, but Larry’s pretty much just in it for the lulz. So when the monkey goes crazy and gets a gun and starts shooting people, Larry’s bosses ask him to take it easy for awhile.

Am I close enough to the camera?


Taking it easy for Larry means strapping himself into a virtual reality chair in his basement and making masturbation noises while he pretend flies around Super Mario World. His wife or girlfriend or whatever quickly tires of his shenanigans and dumps his short-pants-wearin’ ass.

Uhhhh ... Ohhhhhh ... Wooooowwwww ...


The breaking point comes when he decides he would rather play with his souped-up Intellivision than take her to “the city:”

Caroline: You said you were going to take me to the city this weekend. But instead you just hooked up to that machine.
Larry: Why didn’t you remind me?
Caroline: I did.
Larry: This is the future. And you’re afraid of it.
Caroline: Well, it may be the future to you, Larry, but it’s the same old shit to me.

Would you like to see my smoke monster?


My tongue is sticking out. Clearly, I am retarded.

Soon after she’s out of the picture, Larry uses the persuasion techniques he learned at child-molester school to convince his retarded lawn-maintenance guy (or lawnmower man, if you prefer) Jobe (Jeff Fahey) to hook up to his beat-off machine (Larry: You know, Jobe … I have other … different games.). Larry wires Jobe’s neurotransmitters into the mainframe and enhances the virtual CPU up to 10,000 megapixels of data transmitter units, and soon Jobe is the smartest guy in the world. The smartest … and the deadliest. Not only is he super-smart about letters ( Pierce: He absorbed Latin yesterday in two hours. It took me a year just to learn the Latin alphabet.), he can also read people’s thoughts and kill them by turning them into Colecovision characters.

So eventually Jobe decides he’s Jesus, just like his namesake Job from the Bible, only nothing like Job from the Bible whose story was completely different from this. And, like Jesus, he needs to plug himself into the Internet and make everyone’s phones ring so he can enslave them when they answer. Or something, I was a little foggy on the details. Jobe kills a few people, I guess for revenge or whatever, and then he has an epic virtual battle with Larry at Larry’s spooky underground-cave government office while they’re both hooked up to giant gyroscopes. But just in the nick of time, Larry blows up the master computer that Jobe now lives in and escapes, saving the world from Jobe’s crazed telemarketing schemes. Or so we think! At the risk of spoiling the ending, this is what happens at the ending: every phone in the world rings at once. Also, Soylent Green is people.

Suck it, James Cameron! Pandora's got nothing on Hexagon World!

The most surprising thing about The Lawnmower Man is that it actually seems to have followers. I always thought it was one of those movies that everyone could agree was a waste of time, but it has somehow developed a cult audience over the years. I can’t fathom why. Most cult movies are either overlooked gems or so-bad-they’re-good yuk-fests. The Lawnmower Man is neither. It is a dull, futuristic remake of Charly with dated special effects, an unengaging story, and lackluster acting. The only real reason to see it is if you’re a Lost fan and want to watch Frank Lapidus go full-retard. Yet it is beloved-enough that there is a small army of followers on Netflix complaining that the DVD is not the “director’s cut.” Yeesh. To quote Emily Dickinson, “I think that I shall never see / a poem as sad as a person who gives a shit about The Lawnmower Man director’s cut.”

On the Awkward Scale of Pizzas, I give The Lawnmower Man: One pizza!

(Please note: I recognize that this image shows 2 pizzas, but I haven’t created a 1 pizza graphic yet and I’m not about to spend the next five minutes creating one just for consistency’s sake. Take your two pizzas and get the fuck out of here, Fahey.)

Next page: Segretto and his Lawnmower Man fan club buddies tell Jeffrey why his feeble mind cannot comprehend this film’s genius!

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12 Comments to “The Awkward Movie Challenge: The Lawnmower Man”


  1. There is a reason the visual effects are “dated”. The movie is older, probably older than you are.
    If you dislike a movie so much, why spend so many words on it? Methinks he doth protest too much.
    Your bending of the subject matter to your own masturbatory preoccupation evidences……hmmm, shall I say it?
    Have you ever acted? Could you morph yourself into a sweet retarded young man so well that no one notices that you are even there?
    Too bad any old schmoe can get a site on the internet and blather on as if his thoughts mattered.
    Please find something productive to occupy your time.

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  2. A. Boyes says:

    I won’t lie, I love this movie, it’s one of my favourites. I’m probably a bit sad because as well as having The Lawnmower Man on DVD, I have both cuts on VHS and both cuts on Laserdisc. I also recently aquired some 35mm film cells. Oh and I have A VHS box set with the Director’s cut, prints from the film and a production booklet. Anyway, I understand why most people hate this movie and it definately has some flaws but I think it’s awesome.

    Have you seen the Director’s cut? You should at least check it out.

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  3. Your review of Lawnmower man was offensive and sounded like the rantings of a kid who just hit puberty and all you think about jerking yourself off. The acting was ok, the story was good, interesting and moved nicely. It was nice seeing the evolution of Joeb as he became smarter. The visual effects were current for it’s year and you can’t say a movies visual effects looked “dated” comparing them to modern effects of today. A movies effects would be dated looking if they don’t match up to what the standard is when the movie was produced. To sum things up, this was a good picture moving at a good pace and interesting story and good visual effects for it’s time.

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  4. Couldn’t agree more. Unwatchable…

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  5. Well I don’t know why you’re talking about, the graphics were perfectly acceptable, and the story was very god, along with the acting. Ya so what it had nothing to do with a faun who mows lawns and eats the grass and kills people, it’s really become a totally separate movie. But I do agree about the masturbation noises and child-molester school stuff, my thoughts exactly. But still, perfectly good movie, your retarded. But you’ll never develop super mind-powers or sleep with a hot widow:|

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  6. John Zurek says:

    When this movie came out more than 20 years ago, I have enjoyed it as a good science fiction flick.
    Of course if you watch it now in today’s world of mesmerizing computer FX, it looks dated. Yes, go figure. But at the time, the computer generated effects of Lawnmower Man were state of the art.
    “Jeffrey” talks about Jobe trying to “take over the Internet”. That statement of the author kind of proves “Jeffrey” is indeed still wet behind the ears.Because when this movie came out, the Internet was in its infancy and definitely not something you would find in every household. What Jobe was after, was the ’80s dial-up world of BBS-like interconnected computer servers.
    In general, one can’t argue about taste. But I do not think this movie deserves the kind of vitriolic critique laid-out here, especially not by a kid who does not even understand the intricacies of the era in which this movie was made. Shame on you, “Jeffrey”!

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  7. Maria Hansen says:

    Oh, You guys are so typical for the USA …
    Never looking further than Your own genious;
    I have read thousand of Sci-Fi’s and watched
    quite a few too and You’re either too dumb or
    just too selfcentered to understand this movie .

    The funny thing is, this is a movie especially
    YOU 2 “high-priests” could learn from !
    This movie exposes religion and hypocrits,
    showing what religiousness is really about .
    Some people are placed in front of fantastic
    opportunities much like Jesus being tempted
    by the Devil/Satan or Lucifer .
    This theme is wellknown from Dante, Blake
    and other writers . But of course European
    culture has nothing to offer the birthplace of
    Ronald MacDonald !!!

    Regarding “Flowers for Algernon/Charly” You
    are deadly wrong ! Charlie’s genious starts
    to deteriorate (while Jobe’s mind gets poisoned
    by aggression-chemicals added secretly to the
    treatment by a treacherous employee !) and
    becomes a retard like he was before . Actually
    “Awakenings” (De Niro & Williams – 1990) is a
    remake of “Charly”, but to claim Jobe becomes
    a retard again is really AWKWARD …

    So if You BOTH think this is a remake of “Charly”
    You BOTH should be fired immediately ! Or fire
    Yourself from You “highpriest-positions” ..

    It is obvious You just want to bully people for not
    being confused by this movie, which You 2 BOTH
    seem to be . Again BOTH of You should be fired
    for the lousy mocking commentary below :

    “(any one) seriously enough to describe it as
    “an exceptional piece of work,” should be dismissed
    as the crackpots they are.”

    HA, ANY ONE can see You’re confused by this movie
    and at best You’re way offline in regards to the true
    meaning of this movie .

    Actually You BOTH use this “forum” to an obvious
    crusade against Brett Leonard, which (after all)
    doesn’t surprise me, as You guys just want some
    attention to YOUR work and hates all the fame
    others get … :-)

    “The Lawnmower Man” is intellectually stimulating
    and I will quote one review in particular :

    “An epic vision of mankind’s possibilities and risks …, 21 January 2005

    There are a lot of people (especially in the movie industry) who doesn’t like Brett Leonard ; and his other movies like “Virtuosity” (with Russell Crowe & Denzel Washington) clearly shows he is revealing an insight beyond Stephen King (his short story has very little to do with Leonards script !) into the so-called evil . Of course Kubricks Clockwork Orange is in remembrance , but Leonard does what Kubrick couldn’t do – probably due to Burgess novel and the “impersonal” story-points of C.O. – by letting us into the evil guy and by understanding his secret of the deepest darkest unhappiness known to man : The Luciferian state .

    However , TLM is a different movie than “Virtuosity” and battles with “brighter” themes !

    :::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

    And here TLM starts it’s “evil magic” , not like Fausts choice , but like a two-way-responsibility gone apart between the individual (Fahey) and the society (Brosnan , Slate etc.) resulting in tragedy on both parts . We can learn a lot , but we cannot learn how to unlock our civilized psychological prison as we ARE the prison of our mothers “milk” or symbolically in Jobe’s case , the aggression-chemical !

    Yet I find there are many other themes (in example : the creator and the creation / the mystery of sex and the mind etc.) , this underrated ahead-of-it’s-time-movie treats , that is worth paying attention to ; this is a masterpiece in more than one way . And I find most of the actors great in this movie , of course with Jeff Fahey as the real leading star here and Mr.(X?)Bond/Brosnan to give a slightly unconvincing performance .”

    There, I cut out a few parts, but haven’t otherwise
    changed this review that hit the nails – NO Jeffrey;
    NO Mike – we are not crackpots in any way and
    being a movie director myself I can spot jealousness
    easily – so go and see this movie a second time, but
    bring Your brain this time !

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    • Hi Maria! I have nothing but respect for people who have found their passion in life, as you clearly have with The Lawnmower Man. Thanks so much for your input!

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  8. Dear Jeffrey, this is an outdated review of an outdated movie. Even not being a masterpiece, “The Lawnmower Man” is an interesting movie with a bunch of 90′s stereotypes (like evil corporations (with bald evil bosses (with terrible evil guards), killer chimps and evil lawnmowers hehehehe).

    I believe you should re-watch the movie someday in the future and try to think stuff as an 1992′s adolescent watching the movie for the first time, it’s going to be a nice experience.

    Also, different from today’s movies, the thing is not only about showing off how good are people on animation (even the 3d scenes are very creepy, mostly the sex one where he turns himself into a giant slug like creature), it’s about the transition of this low IQ guy into a super strong super human mental “internet” man.

    I’ll not say this movie is the best but maybe you was very mean with it and all. You should try to have fun next time you watch it, also you can do anything at the same time, drink beer or facebook so you don’t overthink everything =D

    Best regards,
    Gutcha

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