on July 19, 1996 by Christine James
   As the commercials and opening credits take such delight in pointing out, this film actually stars Michael Keaton, Michael Keaton, Michael Keaton and Andie MacDowell . "Multiplicity," about a man who clones himself in order to have more free time, is a showcase tailor-made for Keaton and his maniacally comedic persona(e). Keaton stars as good-guy Doug Kinney, an overworked construction manager whose stressful job leaves him hardly any time for his wife Laura ("Groundhog Day's" Andie MacDowell ) and kids (Katie Schlossberg and Zack Duhame), let alone himself. A building job at a scientific research facility leads to a fortuitous encounter with a genetics expert (Harris Yulin) who provides Doug with a solution to the time management dilemma that's eroding his life. Out of desperation, Doug agrees to be cloned. Here, of course, one must suspend one's disbelief--not so much regarding the science of cloning as that Doug would actually believe that having a clone would do more good than harm.
   Doug's doppleganger, known as 2, manifests more of Doug's macho side. He's a workhorse who shoulders all of Doug's responsibilities at the construction business, but he's also more womanizing and rough-mannered. The original Doug stashes 2 in the guest house and soon opts to manufacture another incarnation of himself to help around the house. Doug 3 has a more feminine skew, possessed of the housecleaning compulsions of Felix Unger and the fey, sensitive, "caring nurturer" demeanor of Stuart Smalley. Dougs 2 and 3 make a clone behind Doug 1's back; but, being a copy of a copy, 4 comes out a half-baked loopy goof. It's the perfect set-up for Keaton, who slips easily, enthusiastically and energetically into each identity.
   The story itself, in which Doug 1 must try to patch up his life while both helped and hindered by his duplicates, takes a backseat to Keaton's antics as the quirky clone quartet. His performances are great fun, but Doug 1's marital and employment crises aren't conveyed with enough seriousness or poignancy to evoke any real emotions or sympathy for the character, and this undermines the audience's involvement with the plot and outcome. Nevertheless, "Multiplicity's" many laugh-out-loud moments outweigh any deficiencies in the character connection area. The special effects are great, having evolved significantly since "Patty Duke" days, allowing the audience to believe that, even while simultaneously interacting, the Dougs are four separate people. Managing to steal a couple scenes is director Harold Ramis' fellow "SCTV" alum Eugene Levy, who's a crack-up as an incompetent contractor. Starring Michael Keaton and Andie MacDowell. Directed by Harold Ramis. Written by Chris Miller, Mary Hale, Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel. Produced by Trevor Albert and Harold Ramis. A Columbia release. Comedy. Rated PG-13 for sexual situations. Running time: 112 min
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