Picks and Pans Review: Tron

updated 08/16/1982 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 08/16/1982 AT 01:00 AM EDT

For the money that Walt Disney Productions has spent on this film so far, they could have bankrolled America's video-game fanatics through 100 million rounds of Donkey Kong or Pac-Man and left everyone a lot happier. The attempt by first-time director Steven Lisberger to visualize what the insides of a computer might look—and act—like is imaginative, ambitious and original. It is also, however, noisy, needlessly disorienting and boring. The plot involves a computer games whiz, Jeff Bridges, whose bonanza idea has been stolen by another programmer. Bridges is left to try to electronically break into a huge computer for evidence of the theft and is finally absorbed into the device itself by the ill-tempered Master Control Program. Once inside, Bridges finds a lot of computer programs in the shape of people he knows on the outside. One of them, Tron, is the duplicate of a good-guy programmer, Bruce Boxleitner. Good luck to all in trying to tell Bridges and Boxleitner apart; their looks and acting styles are so similar they could be clones—but that's another movie. They encounter all kinds of special effects, many generated by Disney computers. A few of them are dazzling, such as a high-velocity battle between two three-man teams on what appear to be motorcycles; it is the only sequence in the movie that captures the speed and fascination of video games. Most of the effects, though, are no less or more interesting than looking through a kaleidoscope, and too often the rules of games Bridges plays are left unexplained, so there is no drama, only puzzlement. It's impossible to care about the characters, despite fleeting attempts at humor—the Master Control Program, for instance, sounds like a Hollywood gangster when it snarls, "When someone pushes me, I push back." Too many films have already been made about computers run amok—The Forbin Project, Demon Seed and, of course, 2001—for that notion to carry this film. Seeing it is like spending two hours in a hardware store gussied up with streamers and flashing lights. It's different, but it's not entertainment. (PG)

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