Roger M. Wilcox's review of


(First posted to Bad Movie Night in 2001 or so.)

What do you get when you combine cute-girl-next-door Meg Ryan, grumpy-old-man Walter Matthau, legendary film musician Jerry Goldsmith, and producer/director Fred "Six Degrees of Separation" Schepisi? You get a soppy piece of romantic-comedy pablum that borrows just enough terminology from the real world of physics to be annoying, but not enough to get it right.

The first thing you notice about I.Q. when you rent it is that the logo for the movie looks like one of those old-fashioned pictures of an atom, complete with the three elliptical loops around the nucleus. (A model which, by the way, has been rejected by physicists for over 60 years now.) But this is no ordinary out-of-date sketch of an atom. No no no. THIS one has two of the orbital lobes outlined in pink, so that it looks like a big fat heart. The cover also features Matthau in the likeness of Albert Einstein, and a subtitle of "Think love". We're in for a rough ride, folks.

The movie opens on the 1940s. Or maybe it's the 1950s. We can't be sure. There are old cars around and Einstein is still alive. Or someone trying to be Einstein. The script calls for the Einstein character to exhibit just about every popularized, stereotypical behavior that the real Einstein supposedly engaged in. He is the wisened, loveable old man who asks dumb but deep-sounding questions to his 3 over-the-hill intellectual buddies (one of whom is Goedel), insisits that God doesn't play dice, and, of course, plays "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" on his violin. I figure Jerry Golsmith, almost always a fine film composer, must have been forced at gunpoint to use a squeaky violin playing "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" as the central theme of the soundtrack.

Now, in this movie's cozy little version of reality, Einstein has a brainy niece who, despite claiming that "Color is irrelevant at the atomic level because protons [sic] are so much smaller than light waves", still looks like a perfectly color-coordinated Meg Ryan. She's engaged to be married to the stuffiest man the casting director could find, Stephen Fry, who fulfills every negative stereotype of the experimental psychologist (including attaching electrodes to the genitalia of lab rats). But, thanks to a lucky twist of fate, Durning's car breaks down, and he and Ryan pull into an auto mechanic's shop staffed by the dreamy (read: tired-looking) Tim Robbins.

Naturally, it's love at first sight™. Meg Ryan flashes her patented upper-gums-only smile, and Tim Robbins expresses his love by standing there looking bored. Several innuendoes about sparks and stroke depth are exchanged. When Ryan accidentally leaves her dead father's pocketwatch at the repair station, Robbins takes the opportunity to return it to her, and finds Einstein at her home address. Despite portraying his most wooden expression, Einstein takes a liking to young Robbins, and decides to play matchmaker between Robbins and Ryan by having Robbins dress up as a brainy physicist and say smart-sounding things when Ryan is around.

And what brainy topic do they decide to discuss? Cold fusion powered rockets. Not just fusion itself. Not merely whether cold fusion is even possible. No. We can't just tackle one great problem at a time, can we? No, we've got to put our cold fusion reactor in an interplanetary (or even interstellar) rocket vehicle, and deal with all the engineering headaches THAT would give us, too. I mean, using fusion power here on *earth*, as a cheap alternative to burning fossil fuels to make electricity, just doesn't sound romantic-comedyish enough. Or something.

Robbins manages to fake his way into giving a public lecture about the possibility of cold-fusion powered rocket travel, and succeeds in deceiving the entire physics community. Either that, or the physics community got put to sleep by his woodenness faster than they could question him. But of course Meg Ryan is smarter than your average stuffy physics professor and so eventually sees through Robbins' ruse; she gets so mad at him she bites him in the middle of a wheat field in a cute perky little romantic-comedy moment. The whole affair ends with Meg Ryan yelling at a comet and Einstein saying "Wahoo" as everyone lives happily ever after (except for the Evil Stuffy Stephen Fry, who Gets What He Deserves™).

This is the kind of movie you take a date to — if your date says things like "I don't know anything about that brainy science stuff, tee hee!". It is a perfect date movie to take Talking Barbie to. It will grate on your nerves if you have working brain cells, though. Or if you believe that Meg Ryan's boyfriend in a movie ought to exhibit more personality than a slab of drywall. In its defense, I will say that Walter Matthau gave a fine performance as Albert Einstein, considering the mushy mealy-mouthed sick-to-your-stomach script he had to work with. (I swear, if I'd heard one more reference to "attraction at a distance", I would have had to clean my lunch off the carpet.) If you want a soppy romantic Meg Ryan movie, go rent Joe Versus the Volcano instead.

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