D.A.R.Y.L. is a 1985 American science fiction film written by David Ambrose, Allan Scott and Jeffrey Ellis. It was directed by Simon Wincer and stars Barret Oliver, Mary Beth Hurt, Michael McKean, Danny Corkill, and Josef Sommer. The original music score was composed by Marvin Hamlisch.
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Simon Wincer|
|Produced by||John Heyman
|Written by||David Ambrose
|Music by||Marvin Hamlisch|
|Edited by||Adrian Carr|
|Distributed by||Paramount Pictures
(USA & Canada)
"Daryl" (whose name is an acronym for "Data-Analyzing Robot Youth Lifeform") (Barret Oliver) is an experiment in artificial intelligence, created by a government company called TASCOM. Although physically indistinguishable from an ordinary ten-year-old boy, his brain is actually a super-sophisticated microcomputer with several unique capabilities. These include exceptional reflexes, superhuman multitasking ability, and the ability to "hack" other computer systems. The D.A.R.Y.L. experiment was funded by the military, with the intention of producing a "super-soldier".
One of the original scientists, Dr. Mulligan, has misgivings about the experiment and frees Daryl. Pursued by a helicopter, Mulligan drops off Daryl in a mountain forest in South Carolina, and tries to escape the helicopter. The chase ends when Mulligan drives his car off a cliff and into a river. The helicopter lowers down to investigate, and Mulligan is revealed to be dead.
Daryl is found by an elderly couple that was hunting nearby, and taken to an orphanage in the fictional town of Barkenton, South Carolina; he does not remember who or what he is. Though a normal pre-adolescent boy in most aspects, Daryl begins to exhibit extraordinary talents after he goes to live with foster parents Joyce (Mary Beth Hurt) and Andy Richardson (Michael McKean). He is also introduced to the neighbors of the Richardsons: Howie (Steve Ryan) and Elaine Fox (Colleen Camp) and their children Sherie (Amy Linker) and Tyler "Turtle" (Danny Corkill). Due to being raised in isolation, Daryl's social skills are rather limited, but Turtle, a sarcastic, foul-mouthed wisecracker, manages to help him develop such skills.
Turtle wonders how Daryl can remember his name and how to read, but does not remember anything else about himself. Daryl tells him that he was diagnosed with amnesia, and that his real parents might pick him up one day. At Turtle's house, Daryl notices Turtle playing Pole Position, and decides to try it out, playing and reacting faster than humanly possible. Turtle and Sherie are impressed, but Sherie doesn't believe Daryl has never played Pole Position before. After Turtle calls her by her nickname "Hooky" - a crude nickname meaning "amateur hooker" designed to annoy her, and directed at her interests in countless men - Daryl humbly asks, "What is a 'hooker'?"
Andy decides to teach Daryl how to improve more social skills by teaching him how to play baseball, to which Daryl shows uncanny abilities, including hitting multiple home runs; one of them shatters a window. When Andy shows Daryl how to use an ATM, and Daryl helps Andy to fix it when it won't accept his credit card. Daryl then has a transaction with the ATM which results in Daryl withdrawing $1,426,372 in Andy's account.
The baseball game starts with Andy's team, the Mohawks, facing the Warriors, coached by a rival of Andy's, Bull MacKenzie (Hardy Rawls). Daryl shows off his impressive ability, and the Mohawks start winning the game, but Turtle - who had noticed that Joyce is slightly annoyed that she cannot do anything for Daryl because Daryl can look after himself perfectly - tells him that is is ok for him to not always be perfect and to mess up sometimes; Daryl ends up striking out his next turn, so Turtle ends up taking over for Daryl as the cleanup hitter. Turtle manages to hit a home run, and wins the game for the team, and everyone is joyous that their team won.
However, just as the Richardsons have truly begun to form a bond with Daryl, their new-found happiness is shattered when government agents find him and return him to the TASCOM facility where he was created, in Washington, D.C.. Once there, his memory is restored and he is debriefed on the lessons he learned during his time with the Richardsons. Notable lessons include his decision to strike out at a baseball game, because "under certain conditions (relating with others), error was more efficient than maximum performance", and his subjective preference for chocolate-flavored ice cream over vanilla-flavored ice cream. Because Daryl has revealed a capacity for human emotions, including fear, the D.A.R.Y.L. experiment is considered a failure by the military and the decision is made that the project be "terminated".
Dr. Jeffrey Stewart (Josef Sommer), one of Daryl's designers, decides to free Daryl so he can return to the Richardson family. Unfortunately, despite the cooperation of Dr. Ellen Lamb (Kathryn Walker) in the escape, who was originally skeptical about Daryl's humanity and had alerted the military to Daryl's continued existence, they do not get away cleanly. When asked by the military to justify her complicity, Dr. Lamb offers a reformulation of the Turing test: "General, a machine becomes human... when you can't tell the difference anymore," implying that she is no longer certain that Daryl is not human.
Daryl and Dr. Stewart manage to escape first wave of pursuers, thanks to Daryl's advanced driving skills, apparently acquired through playing the Pole Position video game and watching a driving stuntman on television. As the sun comes up, they drive into the Northern Virginia countryside and steal a pickup truck to avoid recognition. However, when passing two police roadblocks, Dr. Stewart is mortally wounded by a police officer's shotgun. With his dying words, he assures Daryl that he is indeed a real person; Daryl continues his escape.
That night, Daryl sneaks into a nearby airbase, hacks into a computer to trigger several faraway alarms as a distraction, and - taking advantage of the opportunity - steals a Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird, taking flight into the sky. As the sun slowly rises, Daryl sets a course for Barkenton, and contacts Turtle that he is coming home, telling him and Sherie to meet up at Blue Lake, a lake where he and Turtle went earlier in the movie.
Because their missles cannot intercept the plane, the U.S.A.F. tells Daryl that the plane will be vaporized mid-flight using a self-destruct mechanism. Daryl ejects at the last moment, sending him flying into the air - faking his own destruction - as the plane is blown apart over Barkenton. As this happens, Turtle and Sherie bike to the lake to meet up with Daryl. Unfortunately, the ejection had knocked Daryl unconscious, and he, the seat, and the parachute all plummet into Blue Lake. With the added weight of both the seat and the parachute causing him to sink to the bottom, Daryl drowns. When his body resurfaces, Turtle swims out to save him while Sherie signals for help. Daryl is rushed to the hospital, but shows no signs of life and is declared officialy dead.
Everyone is depressed over Daryl's death, even though Turtle says that since he is a computer, he can't die. In the hospital, Dr. Lamb finds him and reactivates his electronic brain, restoring him to life. Now that he is declared dead, Daryl is no longer on the run from TASCOM and is free to run back to his foster family. As Turtle walks out of the Richardsons' house, he sees Daryl running back to the house, and he joyfully reunites with everyone.
- Barret Oliver as D.A.R.Y.L.
- Mary Beth Hurt as Joyce Richardson
- Michael McKean as Andy Richardson
- Danny Corkill as Tyler "Turtle" Fox
- Josef Sommer as Dr. Jeffrey Stewart
- David Wohl as Mr. Nesbitt
- Colleen Camp as Elaine Fox
- Steve Ryan as Howie Fox
- Amy Linker as Sherie Lee Fox
- Kathryn Walker as Dr. Ellen Lamb
- Hardy Rawls as Bull McKenzie
- Jim Fitzpatrick as TASCOM Security Cop
Filming took place from January to March 1985.
Almost all of Barkenton was filmed in Orlando, and the surrounding areas, with one exception in Dillsboro.
- Daryl's house was filmed at 716 Euclid Avenue in Orlando.
- Turtle's house was filmed at 717 Euclid Avenue in Orlando.
- Barkenton's city hall was filmed at 50 Front Street in Dillsboro.
- The hospital scenes were filmed at Orlando VA Medical Center.
- Blue Lake was filmed at Lake Copeland in Orlando.
- The baseball game at Barkenton Park was filmed at Delaney Park in Orlando.
- Barkenton School was filmed at Kaley School in Orlando.
The other locations in the movie were also filmed in Orlando.
D.A.R.Y.L. failed to make it into the box office top five, and has received mainly mixed reviews. The film currently holds a "rotten" 50% positive critics' score on Rotten Tomatoes based on 15 reviews. A 1985 reviewer for The New York Times wrote, "The best that can be said about D.A.R.Y.L.... is that it's inoffensive." In his review for Entertainment Tonight, Leonard Maltin said, "This is one of the blandest movies I've seen all year. No punch. No surprises. No juice, especially in the way it's directed." On their show At the Movies, Gene Siskel gave D.A.R.Y.L. a "thumbs down" for being predictable and formulaic, while Roger Ebert recommended the movie, praising its ending and comparing its theme to that of the 1968 film Charly.
DVD Verdict cites "wooden" acting and a "preposterous" plot, but ultimately concludes that the film is "a formulaic slice of family entertainment that doesn't do much new, but follows the blueprint well enough to warrant a look."