The attractive-sounding pairing of Tim Robbins and Meg Ryan fails to work the necessary magic in I.Q., a would-be fairy tale of theoretical physics and romantic chemistry in which a puckish Hollywood simulation of Albert Einstein plays matchmaker to the stars. This disappointing film was
directed by Fred Schepisi, whose lighter-than-air confection ROXANNE (1987) was precisely the starry-eyed romantic farce that I.Q. tries, and fails, to be.
In Princeton, NJ, sometime during the early 1950s, girl-next-door Catherine (Ryan) is the niece of Einstein (Walter Matthau) and a research scientist in her own right. She's engaged to the pompous James Moreland (Stephen Fry), an experimental psychologist at Princeton University. One day at a
gas station, she meets pump jockey Edward Walters (Robbins), a closet inventor steeped in pulp science fiction and Popular Mechanics. Although he's unlettered and slightly goofy, Ed's intelligent enough to have conceived independently of cold fusion, which he sees as the linchpin to the
development of nuclear-powered spacecraft. As Edward enters the orbit of Catherine and her eccentric family, Einstein and his sidekicks, absent-minded Professors Goedel (Lou Jacobi), Podolsky (Gene Saks), and Liebknecht (Joseph Mahler), realize that he's a better match for Catherine than the
uncaring Moreland. Einstein resurrects an old paper on cold fusion and persuades Ed to masquerade as a physicist and present the paper as his own before an international symposium.
The paper is a hit and Ed is pronounced a genius. In an attempt to discredit his rival, Moreland contrives a public test of Ed's IQ, but Ed scores a hefty 186 due to Einstein's secret coaching. Catherine declares her love for Ed soon after, while Moreland works overtime to prove him a fraud. But
just when President Eisenhower visits the campus, hoping to enlist Ed in a project to build a cold-fusion rocket, Catherine discovers a flaw in the paper's calculations. Moreland confronts Ed at a press conference, declaring that his paper is a plagiarism of Einstein's unpublished early work. But
Einstein himself saves the day by announcing that the paper, together with Catherine's criticisms, has enabled him to disprove Soviet claims of having developed cold-fusion on their own. In the end, Einstein and his buddies persuade the two lovers "never to let their brains interfere with their
Opening with an instrumental version of "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star" on jazz violin, this pop fable promises to spoof all the right cultural landmarks, casting the century's greatest physicist as cuddly yenta and gently kidding the simultaneous cockeyed optimism and anti-Communist paranoia of
the American 50s. But what should come off as fizzy soon goes flat, and everything seems to go wrong simultaneously. Increasingly desperate, I.Q.'s screenplay (unsuccessfully doctored by several Hollywood writers, including Nora Ephron) cannibalizes ROXANNE, rerunning scenes of star-crossed lovers
mooning over the night sky, employing an impending comet as a major plot point, even corralling the central conceit of Cyrano, with Einstein ghost-writing Ed's love letters to Catherine. But the storybook magic that made the earlier film work so effortlessly is entirely absent here. Meg Ryan's
cloying persona wears thin early on, while Matthau, one of the screen's masters of dyspepsia, is simply defeated by a part that is all sweetness and light.
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- Released: 1994
- Rating: PG
- Review: The attractive-sounding pairing of Tim Robbins and Meg Ryan fails to work the necessary magic in I.Q., a would-be fairy tale of theoretical physics and romantic chemistry in which a puckish Hollywood simulation of Albert Einstein plays matchmaker to the st… (more)