Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Simon Wincer|
|Produced by||John Heyman
|Written by||David Ambrose
Mary Beth Hurt
|Music by||Marvin Hamlisch|
|Editing by||Adrian Carr|
|Distributed by||Paramount Pictures
(USA & Canada)
|Release dates||June 14, 1985|
|Running time||99 min.|
D.A.R.Y.L. is a 1985 American science fiction film which was written by David Ambrose, Allan Scott and Jeffrey Ellis. It was directed by Simon Wincer and stars Barret Oliver, Mary Beth Hurt, Michael McKean, Danny Corkill, and Josef Sommer. The original music score was composed by Marvin Hamlisch.
"Daryl" (an acronym for "Data-Analysing Robot Youth Lifeform") (Barret Oliver) is an experimental artificial intelligence, created by the government. Despite his name, he is actually not a robot, but rather a cyborg. His brain is a highly sophisticated microcomputer, but the rest of him is human, which allows him to absorb vast amounts of data via sensory input. Although Daryl is physically indistinguishable from an ordinary ten-year-old, his computer brain gives him a number of unique capabilities. These include exceptional reflexes and strength, superior multitasking capabilities, and the ability to hack any computer system. The D.A.R.Y.L. experiment was funded by the military, with the idea of producing a "super-soldier". One of the project's scientists has a change of heart about the experiment and frees Daryl, being killed in the process.
An elderly couple finds Daryl and takes him to an orphanage. He does not remember who he is. Though a normal boy in most aspects, Daryl begins to exhibit talents when he is placed with foster parents Joyce (Mary Beth Hurt) and Andy Richardson (Michael McKean), including uncanny skills at baseball, the ability to interface with an ATM, and with playing video games. He is also introduced to the Richardson's neighbors Howie (Steve Ryan) and Elaine Fox (Colleen Camp) along with their children Sherie (Amy Linker) and Turtle (Danny Corkill). Since he was raised in isolation, Daryl's social skills are limited. His friend Turtle, who is unusually vulgar and obnoxious even for a young boy, helps him develop them.
However, just as the Richardsons have begun bonding with Daryl, their happiness is shattered when the government takes Daryl back to the facility where he was created. Once there, his memory is restored and he is debriefed on what he learned during his time outside. Notable moments include his decision to strike out while at bat, because "under certain conditions [while relating with others], error was more efficient than maximum performance", and his preference for chocolate over vanilla ice cream. Because Daryl has revealed a capacity for human emotions (including fear), the D.A.R.Y.L. experiment is considered a failure by the military and the decision is made that it be "terminated". Dr. Stewart (Josef Sommer), Daryl's designer, decides to free Daryl so he can return to the Richardsons. Despite help from Dr. Lamb (Kathryn Walker), who was skeptical about Daryl's humanity, they do not get away cleanly. When asked by the military to justify her complicity, Dr. Lamb offers a reformulation of the Turing test: "General, a machine becomes human ... when you can't tell the difference anymore.", meaning she is no longer certain that Daryl is not human.
Daryl and Dr. Stewart escape a number of pursuers, due to Daryl's driving skills acquired when playing the Pole Position video game and watching a stunt driver on television. However, when passing through a police roadblock, Dr. Stewart is shot. With his dying words, he assures Daryl that he is a real person. Continuing his escape, Daryl infiltrates a nearby military airbase and steals an SR-71 Blackbird to return to the Richardsons. In flight, he contacts his friend Turtle to arrange a meeting point. After being warned that the plane will be blown up by the US Air Force with a self-destruct mechanism, Daryl ejects at the last moment, faking his own destruction. He is knocked unconscious and falls into a lake, where he drowns and shows no sign of life.
His friend Turtle and his sister Sherie arrive just in time to see Daryl floating face down in the water. Turtle rescues Daryl while Sherie flags down a passing car. After Daryl is taken to a hospital and announced deceased, Dr. Lamb finds him and reactivates his electronic brain, restoring him to life. Recognised as officially deceased by the military, Daryl is free to return to his foster family, and he reunites with the Richardsons and the Foxes.
- Barret Oliver as D.A.R.Y.L.
- Mary Beth Hurt as Joyce Richardson
- Michael McKean as Andy Richardson
- Danny Corkill as Turtle Fox
- Josef Sommer as Dr. Jeffrey Stewart
- David Wohl as Mr. Nesbitt
- Colleen Camp as Elaine Fox
- Steve Ryan as Howie Fox
- Amy Linker as Sherie Lee Fox
- Kathryn Walker as Dr. Ellen Lamb
- Jim Fitzpatrick as Tascom Security Cop
D.A.R.Y.L. failed to make it into the box office top five, and has received mainly mixed to negative reviews. The film currently holds a "rotten" 33% positive critics' score on Rotten Tomatoes. A 1985 reviewer for The New York Times wrote, "The best that can be said about D.A.R.Y.L.... is that it's inoffensive." In his review for Entertainment Tonight, Leonard Maltin said, "This is one of the blandest movies I've seen all year. No punch. No surprises. No juice, especially in the way it's directed." On their show At the Movies, Gene Siskel gave D.A.R.Y.L. a "thumbs down" for being predictable and formulaic, while Roger Ebert recommended the movie, praising its ending and comparing its theme to that of the 1968 film Charly.
DVD Verdict cites "wooden" acting and a "preposterous" plot, but ultimately concludes that the film is "a formulaic slice of family entertainment that doesn't do much new, but follows the blueprint well enough to warrant a look." Many positive modern reviews cite 1980s nostalgia (in particular, a scene in which Daryl plays Atari) as a basis for more positive ratings.
As of 2012, the film had not received a Blu-ray release.