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Billy Bob leads the way to clone star state

WHAT IS THE BIG DEAL about cloning? Everyone seems all worked up about scientists bringing a few extra sheep and monkeys into the world, but it’s really not that big a deal: Hollywood has been successfully cloning things for ages.

Nearly every current sitcom was cloned from “I Love Lucy” or “The Honeymooners.” Fifteen years later, most hour dramas have the same DNA as “Hill Street Blues.”

Every action film seems to have come from the same egg. Rap records? Don’t get me started.

Obviously, Parker Posey has been cloned several times, which explains how she can appear in so many films simultaneously.

Half the young actors in Hollywood were cloned from Skeet Ulrich, who is a clone of Steven Dorff, who was cloned from Eric Stoltz, who can be traced back to Ryan O’Neal, Guy Madison and Lew Ayres.

If Juliette Binoche wins the Oscar and Julia Ormond accepts it, would anyone know the difference? No, because they were both cloned from Isabella Rossellini.

WHICH BRINGS US TO “SLING BLADE,” a movie about an innocent creature who wanders into a small town, changes the life of a little boy and his mom, then walks into the sunset. Clearly, the plot was cloned from “E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial” and some old Lassie movies, but with a ’90s twist: In this case, the boy’s lovable pet is a retarded man.

As the film begins, Karl Childers (played by writer-director Billy Bob Thornton) is released from a mental institution 25 years after he’d murdered two people. Within 48 hours of his release, he’s landed a job, made new friends, and two people have offered him a place to live. If O.J. Simpson moved to this town, they’d probably hand over their car keys as well.

The film raises many troubling questions: Doesn’t any American independent film deal with Southerners who have an IQ above 100 or who earn more than $10,000 a year? Don’t Southerners eat anything other than Tastee Cremes and fried pataters? And, most upsetting of all, who gave these people haircuts?

However, despite these serious issues, you can’t help thinking the character of Karl would have worked better as a wacky handyman on “Green Acres,” exchanging non sequiturs with Eva Gabor about lawnmowers, potted meat and Arnold the pig.

Audiences seem pretty split on the film. Ya love it or ya hate it, I reckon, mm-hmm. And for those who loved it, we offer some ideas on how to clone that character into other media.

(Note: The following reveals the ending, which you may not figure out until, oh, at least 20 minutes into the film, so if you want to be surprised, don’t read on.)

The pic plays upon a primal fantasy: Wouldn’t it be wonderful if some lovable, slow-witted man would come into my life and play ball with my kids and murder all the people who are giving me a hard time? Then he could be institutionalized again and I could go on with my life.

Cloned for a TV drama series, Karl could get paroled every week, meet a kind stranger who is being tormented, kill the villain and be sent back to the asylum again. In other words, “Sliced by an Angel.”

IN FEATURE FILMS, Julia Ormond (or Juliette Binoche) could solve the murders in “Smilla’s Sense of Slings.” In “Rain or Shine Sling Blades,” Karl could run into David Helfgott (Geoffrey Rush) and Raymond (Dustin Hoffman) at the asylum. (It would be fun to see the three thesps interact: Dueling Speech Patterns.) For that matter, Karl could have helped all his fellow Oscar nominees: killing people in “Fargo,” putting Ralph Fiennes out of his misery in “The English Patient,” and taking care of those overbearing parents in “Shine” and “The Mirror Has Two Faces.”

Karl could replace Jim Varney on those “Hey, Vern!” car commercials. Miramax’s parent Disney, which so successfully turned Quasimodo into a singin’ star, could create a made-for-video “Sling-Along Songs.”

Forget Boo Radley in “To Kill a Mockingbird,” Lenny in “Of Mice and Men” or even Forrest Gump. Hollywood finally has an all-purpose lovable lug in Karl. E.T., clone home.

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