What The Film!? – The Lawnmower Man


What The Film?! is a weekly column exclusive to Under The Gun Review that brings to light the plot holes Hollywood hoped you’d never notice. Written by comedy writer Dane Sager, this column shows no mercy to films that try and pull the proverbial wool over our eyes.

If you know a film with major plot holes that you feel needs to be exposed, tell us! Email utgjames@gmail.com with the subject “What The Film” and we’ll try to get your suggestion featured on the site.

This Week’s Movie: 1992’s The Lawnmower Man

Here’s a little experiment, think of the worst Stephen King adaptation you can think of. Was it 1987’s The Running Man? Was it 1993’s The Tommyknockers? 1999’s The Rage: Carrie 2? Some consider casting Jack Nicholson in 1980’s The Shining a bad move because it gave away the ending because he was clearly going to go insane and kill everyone because he’s Jack Nicholson. There’s a lot of bad movies based on Stephen King stories, but there’s only been one that resulted in Stephen King suing the studios and won. Ladies and gentlemen, I present 1992’s The Lawnmower Man.

It’s worse than 2003’s Dreamcatch. You Dream Catch-Her, you brought her!

King’s original short story of The Lawnmower Man was about a man who hires a freelance landscaper to mow his yard. When the landscaper arrives, he turns out to be a satyr who summons sentient lawnmowers to cut the grass while he prances around naked and eating the recently cut sod. The owner of the house calls the police, but is murdered by the satyr before they arrive. The End.

How do you make a full length feature out of that? It’s easy, you don’t. The Lawnmower Man was an original script and used “Stephen King’s The Lawnmower Man” as its title because fuck Stephen King. King sued New Line Cinema three times, winning each time, but New Line kept the title and continued to go to court over it because they were desperate to keep his name on their freaky cyber-punk adapation of Flowers for Algernon.

This is a promising start to the movie. Am I watching Laser Cats?

The movie begins at Virtual Space Industries, where Dr. James Bond is conducting experiments to make chimpanzees smarter using drugs, virtual reality, and a whole lot of 1990’s science jargon that is laughable now. They cut to what this chimp is learning in his virtual reality helmet and it looks like Perfect Dark 64 without any real texture data. It’s an FPS, but all the enemies are flat, single colored sprites. I want to say this was impressive at the time, but this movie came out the year before Jurassic Park and the year after Terminator 2. The chimp ends up escaping from the lab that night using the FPS training it received in VR, its weird Robo-Cop goggles, and a pistol it stole off a guard it killed.

“Bond… Dr. James Bond. I train chimps to be murderous killing machines for some reason.”

We’re then introduced to Jobe Smith, a landscaper who’s mentally disabled. It’s at this point that the movie seems less like an adaptation of the cartoon ReBoot and more like an adaptation of “Simple Jack”, the movie-within-a-movie-within-a-movie in 2008’s Tropic Thunder. They even look alike. When Jobe doesn’t complete the landscaping, his boss and caretaker Father McKeen becomes physically and emotionally abusive.

At home, Dr. Bond drinks by himself, thinking aloud about how he needs a human subject to test his virtual reality training that turn a chimpanzee into a murderous crazy MacGyver. Wondering who he can test this on, he decides on the mentally handicapped Jobe, because having something that turns a chimp into murder machine should be used on an human who’s been abused.

Where could this possibly go wrong?

Jobe rapidly becomes more intelligent, more intelligent than anyone else in the movie, learning Latin in two hours. Dr. James Bond’s neighbor starts becoming attracted to Jobe, eventually having a sexual relationship with him because that’s not at all creepy or weird. The sex sequence is executed significantly creepier than you’d think it would be too.

Jobe starts breaking down, having hallucinations and violent headaches in public before realizing he’s telepathic for absolutely no reason. Virtual Reality made this man have telepathy. Jobe takes his sexual partner and breaks into the lab with her. While in a Virtual Reality simulation together, they have freaky cyber sex that causes her to go completely insane.

“Yeah, this is what sex looks like, I guess, I don’t know, shut up.”

Jobe predictably ends up snapping and becoming violent like the chimpanzee that escaped in the beginning of the movie. He ends up killing Father McKeen, a local gas station clerk, and the abusive father of a neighbor boy with the very same homemade lawnmower he designed himself. Cops shrug it off as an accident.

Jobe believes that the Virtual Reality simulations are actually another dimension (they aren’t) and that he’ll turn his body into pure energy, controlling the internet or something. I’m not sure because it doesn’t make much sense. Jobe’s glowing floating head flies outside Bond’s house, dissolving people by looking at them before going back to the lab to put himself in the computer.

He successfully does so, becoming a being living inside a computer, which absorbs his entire physical body because that makes sense. Dr. James Bond arrives and puts a virus into the computer, disabling its modem and any links to the outside world, trapping Jobe inside the local network. Bond finds a bunch of explosives in a nearby truck that exist for no reason and decides to destroy the lab with Jobe inside it. He then changes his mind and puts himself into the virtual reality to try to reason with Jobe. He predictably fails and is rescued by Peter, a neighbor boy. Together they escape as the lab explodes.

This is what the internet actually looks like. I know this because I write for it.

We then cut to Dr. Bond who’s at Peter’s house, romantically involved with his Mom despite the fact that the his wife left him a week ago and that her husband was violently murdered by Jobe literally that day. The most jarring aspect of this ending is that the killer chimpanzee that escaped in the first scene was never caught. That was a plot point that was never resolved. Somewhere out there in this movie’s universe is a chimpanzee with a Robo-Cop helmet and a pistol still murdering people.

“Excuse me, I have to go. Somewhere, there is a crime happening. “

If you find this murderous chimp, don’t hesitate! You need to stay calm and promptly follow Dane on Twitter and Tumblr!

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