D.A.R.Y.L. (1985) / Sci Fi-Thriller
MPAA Rated: PG for some violence and language (I'd rate it PG-13)
Running Time: 99 min.
Cast: Barret Oliver, Michael McKean, Mary Kay Place, Danny Corkill, Amy Linker, Ed Grady, Tucker McGuire, Josef Sommer, Ron Frazier, Colleen Camp, Steve Ryan, Kathryn Walker, David Wohl
Director: Simon Wincer
Screenplay: David Ambrose, Allan Scott, Jeffrey Ellis
Review published September 24, 2005
Following on the success of E.T., there were quite a few clones involving a being that changes the lives of ordinary families for the better, only to have scary government agents out to destroy the alien/robot/sentient spaceship/mythical creature/furry animal lest things be revealed that the public dare not know. D.A.R.Y.L. was one of the modestly popular ones, but by no means the most memorable. As clichéd as it may be, it is also an entertaining enough film if seen as one aimed at children, who may not really be overly familiar with overused plot devices and themes.
An amnesiac orphan boy named Daryl (Oliver, The NeverEnding Story) is fostered by a loving, childless couple that adopts the young boy as their own until his proper parents are found. Daryl proves to be their dream child -- exceedingly bright, physically gifted, and as well-mannered and thoughtful as there is in a child his age. Just as soon as they grow attached, someone finally does come for him, claiming to be Daryl's parents, only something is wrong. Soon, a secret so powerful that Pentagon forces are employed is revealed, leading up to only one possible conclusion -- Daryl must be killed.
It isn't high on special effects, but there is plenty of action in the second half of the movie, as the story takes a turn into a militaristic thriller, complete with car chases and explosions galore. Most of it is a bit farfetched, but within the context of the set-up, it holds to to the fantastical premise. Oliver portrays Daryl nicely, while McKean (This is Spinal Tap, More Than Friends) does a good job in a rare non-comedic role as Daryl's proud would-be father, Andy. Director Wincer (The Phantom, Free Willy) reveals the mystery to Daryl's nature slowly, although the title does offer a bit of a spoiler, Kids still may not see this as obvious though, and they are most likely the ones that will be most riveted by D.A.R.Y.L.'s story to begin with.
D.A.R.Y.L. is mostly recommended as an adolescent adventure, although it will entertain adults that are interested in 80s science fiction stories that have intriguing possibilities, even if they are never really explored sufficiently before becoming an action pic. The language is a bit on the salty side for a family flick, as many films of this era are, and the second half of the film can be a bit intense for very young viewers. Like the titular boy himself, D.A.R.Y.L. is artificial in design, but despite the mechanical construct, it emerges as thoughtful and likeable nonetheless.
©2005 Vince Leo