Written by scripters Preston Sturges, son of the renowned writer-director of the same name, and director Mick Garris, “Virtual Obsession” zings off into sci-fi, horror, computer and domestic worlds in a brave but misguided look at where computers may be hurling us. Despite Garris’ brisk direction and David Ensley’s prime production design, this Future World looks, like the vidpic, ho-hum.
Utah Central U. Artificial Intelligence scientist Joe (Peter Gallagher, navigating the telepic’s shallows with an earnest face), researcher into how possibly to attain human immortality, and fellow scientist Tom (Andy Comeau) are pursuing the idea of instilling human intelligence into a computer that’s already badly running Salt Lake’s citywide utilities. They’ve come up with computerized Albert (Tom Nibley), a semi-real intelligence who’s a would-be ringer for Einstein.
Joe’s happily married to Karen (Mimi Rogers), who rightfully laments a lot. Lovely redhead Juliet (Bridgette Wilson, beautiful though rarely convincing), after joining Joe as a researcher, confides, “I have a couple of months to live, if I’m lucky.” Suffering as she is with a fatal brain aneurysm, she wants him to inject her brain waves into the computer so she can live on after her body’s dead.
She displays no sign of illness, has no doctor, nurse or support system to fall back on, but she does come on to Joe with a brashness that would make a L’il Abner guffaw. Of all things, Joe’s a pushover.
Wife Karen’s busy checking out household duties as well as young son Jack (Jake Lloyd), and doesn’t tumble to trouble over the new assistant till she gets a whiff of the pretty girl’s perfume. Joe, caught lying a couple of times, does apologize to Karen. Again and again.
And what’ll happen if amorous, ambitious Juliet worms her way into the computer?
Since the videocassette furnished reviewers is woefully short of final visual effects, supervisor Craig Weiss’ handiwork — an approximately eight-minute blank screen, for instance, represents crucial visual material half-way through the telefilm — the storyline’s the center of attention. It doesn’t deserve such concentration.
Except for the stalwart Gallagher and for Comeau — and for a strong entry by Robert Vaughn as Juliet’s rightfully angry dad –the acting’s indifferent at best. Shelly Johnson’s camerawork sparkles, and, under the circumstances, Patrick McMahon’s editing shines.