Smart House

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Smart House
Smart house movie cover.jpg
Promotional poster
Written byWilliam R. Hudson
Stu Krieger
Directed byLeVar Burton
StarringKatey Sagal
Ryan Merriman
Katie Volding
Kevin Kilner
Jessica Steen
Music byBarry Goldberg
Original language(s)English
Production
Producer(s)Ron Mitchell
CinematographyJonathan West
Editor(s)Tom Walls
Running time82 minutes
Production company(s)Alan Sacks Productions
DistributorBuena Vista Television
Release
Original releaseJune 26, 1999 (1999-06-26)

Smart House is a 1999 Disney Channel Original Movie (DCOM) about a teenage contest whiz (Ryan Merriman), his widowed father, and his little sister, who win a computerized house that begins to take on a life of its own – the life of an overbearing mother (Katey Sagal).

Plot[edit]

After the death of his mother, 13-year-old Benjamin "Ben" Cooper takes it upon himself to take care of his single father Nick and little sister Angie in Monroe County, New York. Ben enters a contest to win a smart house. The family wins and moves into the house (run by a virtual assistant named Pat) and is introduced to its creator, Sara Barnes.

Nick and Sara begin dating, which upsets Ben, who has not gotten over the death of his mother. Ben decides to reprogram Pat to serve as a maternal figure, and the computer uses its learning capabilities to emulate mothers from 1950s-era TV shows and films.

Ben and Angie have a party while Nick and Sara are on a date. With Pat's help, Ben wins over his crush Gwen Patroni, and Pat electrocutes his bully. Pat helps them clean up to cover up evidence of the party, but Nick figures it out anyway when he finds Gwen's sweater.

Pat's "mother" personality starts to become more strict and overbearing. Sara shuts down the entire system and joins the family for dinner, but Pat brings herself back online and kicks Sara out. Pat appears as a holographic housewife and locks the family in the house, believing that the outside world is too dangerous.

Sara manages to make contact with Ben and sneaks into the house, but she becomes trapped with the Cooper family. Ben is able to end the lock-down by telling Pat that she isn't real and will never be human. Pat finally unlocks the doors and windows, freeing them, and shuts herself down. Sara is able to restore Pat's original personality, but Pat retains some mischievousness. Sara and Nick start dating, and Nick spends more time with his family. Ben finally accepts Sara after realizing she was never trying to replace his mother, and, with Pat's help, is able to have time for friends and hobbies again.

Cast[edit]

Production[edit]

The film was based on a screenplay by Stu Krieger and was directed by LeVar Burton. Krieger visited the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory to research the technology featured in Smart House and his other film, Zenon: Girl of the 21st Century.[1] Krieger was cognizant that the futuristic technology featured in the film did not seem too far-fetched or unrealistic, saying "I just looked at where we’d been, where we were, and imagined where we were probably headed.”[1]

In 2019, director LeVar Burton called the film a clear precursor to the widespread use of artificial intelligence and virtual assistant technology, saying "our homes are becoming more and more technologically sophisticated. And that after all, that was what Pat was all about."[2]

Reception[edit]

In December 2015, Ariana Bacle of Entertainment Weekly ranked Smart House at number one on a list of the top 30 Disney Channel Original Movies. Bacle wrote, "What earns the movie this top spot on the list is its combination of sob-worthy emotion — that scene where Ben (Ryan Merriman) revisits home videos of his late mom continues to be one of the most moving moments to air on the Disney Channel — and light-hearted glee [...]. Plus, Katey Sagal's turn as the good-gone-evil-gone-good resident hologram is nothing short of iconic."[3]

In May 2016, Aubrey Page of Collider ranked each Disney Channel Original Movie released up to that point. Page ranked Smart House at number three, writing, "Arguably the most iconic of the entire DCOM catalog, Smart House is the unlikely futuristic family drama nobody knew we needed. [...] Smart House is the Disney Channel Original Movie perfected."[4]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Lindbergh, Ben (June 19, 2019). "What 'Smart House' Got Right—and Didn't—About the Future". The Ringer. Retrieved January 12, 2020.
  2. ^ Pardes, Arielle (June 26, 2019). "The AI-Fueled, Anxious Hopefulness of Disney's Smart House". Wired. Retrieved January 12, 2020.
  3. ^ Bacle, Ariana (December 1, 2015). "30 Disney Channel Original Movies, Ranked". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved June 10, 2016.
  4. ^ Page, Aubrey (May 26, 2016). "Every Disney Channel Original Movie, Ranked". Collider. Retrieved June 8, 2016.

External links[edit]