The Strange Case Of Senor Computer

  • 1999
  • Movie
  • NR
  • Drama, Science Fiction

An ultra-low budget oddity about a sentient machine and its neglectful creator. Socially inept computer geek Charles O'Toole (Rick Ziegler) occupies his copious free time with the creation of a sentient computer that he hopes will solve a series of mathematical brain-busters. But the product of his labors, housed in a casing that looks like a metal storage...read more

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Reviewed by Maitland McDonagh
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An ultra-low budget oddity about a sentient machine and its neglectful creator. Socially inept computer geek Charles O'Toole (Rick Ziegler) occupies his copious free time with the creation of a sentient computer that he hopes will solve a series of mathematical brain-busters. But the product of his labors, housed in a casing that looks like a metal storage bin with wheels and spindly robot arms, can't hack advanced number crunching: The computations plunge it into psychedelic depression it calls the "coma nightmare." Disappointed, Charles grows bored with his creation and ignores it in favor of obsessing about his nonexistent social life, drinking and moping and eventually attempting suicide. Meanwhile, his cleaning lady, Carlotta (Gladys Hans), takes a maternal shine to the clunky automaton, which she dubs "Senor Computer" and starts educating in her own eccentric fashion. The rapidly maturing robot discovers the joys of movies, music and ordering on credit. He takes a new name — Ike — strikes up a phone flirtation with local radio personality Ryan (Constance Tillotsen), develops peculiar phobias and beliefs (that generic dishwashing liquid is made by a cabal of money-hungry robots, for example) and struggles to understand the distinction between sitcoms and reality-based TV shows. Charles remains a painfully unsatisfactory father: He spends time in a mental hospital, finds a loony girlfriend (Lisa Goodman), retreats again into black depression when she dumps him, and threatens to melt Ike down for scrap. He eventually turns to Ike for dating advice with predictably unfortunate results. At least, the fact that things don't work out well is predictable; the way in which they don't is quite surprising. Writer-director Tom Sawyer (who's also inside Ike), a computer programmer, made the film over a period of two years on what was clearly a minimal budget. But what it lacks in technical flash it makes up for in low-key charm — not sappy charm, but endearing eccentricity. Ike, with his synthesized syntax and his dumpy retro look, is a curiously appealing protagonist, even when he's commanding his masochistic girlfriend (another phone conquest) to worship her dishwasher. Narrated by Ike and shot is soft, silvery black and white (like a many-generations-down dupe of a low-budget '50s movie), this DIY oddity is both quirkily funny and strangely poignant, and does justice to the same themes that underlie the far more lavishly produced A.I.: ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE.

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  • Released: 1999
  • Rating: NR
  • Review: An ultra-low budget oddity about a sentient machine and its neglectful creator. Socially inept computer geek Charles O'Toole (Rick Ziegler) occupies his copious free time with the creation of a sentient computer that he hopes will solve a series of mathema… (more)

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