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July 14, 2006
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Volume 34
Issue 28
 
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Dark humor runs through this disturbing tale by author Phillip K. Dick
Dark humor runs through this disturbing tale by author Phillip K. Dick
by Rajkhet Dirzhud-Rashid - SGN A&E Writer

A Scanner Darkly

Directed by: Richard Linklater

Voiceovers by: Keanu Reeves, Robert Downey, Jr., Woody Harrelson

Winona Ryder, Rory Cochrane

Opened: July 7th

Egyptian Theater

I'm sure I'm not the only one who's noticed that Holly-weird seems to be on the animated feature kick of late. In the last couple of months, there've been at least one a week, some worth seeing (in my humble opinion, and some not). My thought is that it's cheaper and easier to get actors to do voiceovers and to draw in sets, rather than hire big names for big bucks and use pricey sets. Remember that you heard it here first.

Still, as someone who grew up loving both comic books and science fiction, I occasionally will wander into the theater to see an animated feature on the big screen. And I have to say I wasn't disappointed with the fare dished up by director Richard Linklater (the provocative animated feature from a few years back, 'Waking Life' was his), in his treatment of fave sci-fi writer Phillip K. Dick's ('Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep', which later became the classic, 'Bladerunner') 'A Scanner Darkly'. In fact, I saw it twice, at two different screenings, and have to say, it's a definite winner, animated or not.

The process used for this very life-like looking feature is called 'rotoscoping', but I won't go into all of that, but tell you that the story, set in the future, California, is not only typical Phil Dick witty, but also darkly humorous in parts. Following the plotline of a futuristic law enforcement agency (not too different from the ones that exist today, really), surveilling a group of loser, druggie types who are supposed to be connected to some larger drug/terror organization, 'Scanner' gives the audience a possible future, where the hunt for drug dealers and the elimination of 'dangerous drugs' become society's main focus. And with out current, terror-obsessed government, couldn't that happen, and maybe it's happening already.

I especially liked the way little asides by the characters and certain behaviors reminded me of my past using days, and how silly it all looks in retrospect, particularly in this film. Linklater gives life to a story that makes not only sense to me, but offers characters that are at once likeable, and reprehensible, and also doomed by their own addiction. Only the clearer note in this film, is how everyone around them, even 'the good guys', are caught up in the same addictive cycle of cynicism, paranoia and inner dogma.

I loved this film, and for the effect, if for no other reason, I'd say this is one to see in a theater. Hey, if only to take someone who's 'been there', and nudge each other wryly over the many drug references and often hilarious 'doings' of these four losers.

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