DARYL is an enjoyable and thought-provoking kids’ film. The central premise is fantastic and high-concept – a rare thing for children’s films. Daryl, a military experiment that combines the body and senses of a child with a microchip for a brain, is set free from his creators and settles in mid-America suburbia with a loving adoptive family. The high-jinks that result from an apparently normal ten-year-old who has super-intelligence living in normal surrounds is light, predictable and great fun in patches.
The coup for this movie, however, is the thought-provocation that arises from the evolution of Artificial Intelligence lifeforms to the point when you can no longer tell them apart from humans. This complex issue is dealt with sensitively and thoughtfully in the context of a film not aimed at philosophers or AI scientists (clearly, however, the topic continued to prey on the mind of one of the screenwriters – Ambrose went on to write the excellent novel, Mother of God, which is the “grown-up” heir apparent to DARYL).
The familiar faces of Mary Beth Hurt, Michael McKean and Josef Sommer are ideally cast in the roles of parents and scientist respectively. Equally, the young actors playing Daryl and best-friend Turtle are excellent. The set-pieces fly through with surface levity and implied poignancy in equal measure (how easy it is to dismantle a computer, how difficult when the computer is encased in the flesh and blood of a child). Stagey action scenes and the odd moment of wooden acting from minor support actors are the major blights on the film. Overall, though, it is fun and entertaining.