“You know how when you make a copy of a copy, it’s not as sharp as… well… the original.”
A construction company project manager with too many responsibilities gets the chance to ease his workload a bit when he does a job at a lab that has perfected the cloning process. And if JURASSIC PARK has taught us anything, it’s that the cloning process always goes off without a hitch.
Directed by Harold Ramis
Written by Chris Miller, Mary Hale, Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel
I have an affinity for Michael Keaton movies. Long before he became the Caped Crusader in BATMAN, I had been watching his 1980s comedies on HBO. From MR. MOM to GUNG HO to THE DREAM TEAM, there was something about the way Keaton carried himself in these movies that I would otherwise consider silly slapstick comedies that elevated them into something better.
After BATMAN in 1989, Keaton stepped away from these roles for a little bit, I would assume to grow as an actor and try to keep from being typecast. But it was a damned shame, because he’s REALLY great in these roles. When I discovered MULTIPLICITY toward the end of my time in high school, watching it brought back the same enjoyment that I had watching those other movies as a young kid.
Here, Keaton plays Doug Kinney, a construction manager with a wife and two kids who feels like he doesn’t have any time to himself. When his company does some work at a lab, he’s offered a chance to ease his burden by cloning himself. When that doesn’t fully relieve the burdens he and his clone are under, he clones himself again. The first clone, Number 2, takes all of his aptitude for construction while Number 3 focuses on being a good homemaker. Even with two perfect copies, things are still a little hectic, and the problems are compounded by the wacky miscommunications between the original and the two clones. So the clones decide to make another clone, which really just doesn’t work out well. A lot of the comedy in the back half of the movie comes from the damaged Number 4 acting… well, I guess weird is the best way to put it.
Kinney cloned himself in the hopes of helping his strained marriage and giving himself some free time. And while he manages to get out to play golf and go sailing while Numbers 2 and 3 take up responsibilities at work and at home, Doug’s wife – played by Andie McDowell – still gets frustrated with him, because his mood changes with every interaction and he doesn’t remember conversations from just a few minutes ago. It’s understandable, since she’s talking to 3-4 different people (depending on whether Number 4 manages to sneak out of the apartment above the garage the clones all share.
It’s not a classic with a deep, meaningful plot, just a 1990s comedy capitalizing on the then-recent fad of cloning (Dolly the Cloned Sheep would become a craze early the next year). But Keaton is just fantastic in this film. He essentially plays four different versions of the same character. Each version of Doug has his own quirks and personality differences (and in the case of Number 4, a lack of brain power that allows for more slapstick humor like bumping into walls and having a brick fall on his head). It’s a really great performance in a film that would have been a lot worse with a different actor in the lead.
Honestly, I would have loved a sequel focusing on the three clones and the pizza parlor they opened in Miami at the end of the film. It was a missed opportunity, to be sure.