Smart House (film)
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Smart House is a 1999 Disney Channel Original Movie (DCOM) about a teenage contest whiz (Ryan Merriman), his widowed father, and his little sister, who win a computerized house that begins to take on a life of its own – the life of an overbearing mother (Katey Sagal).
|Written by||William R. Hudson|
|Directed by||LeVar Burton|
|Music by||Barry Goldberg|
|Running time||82 minutes|
|Production company(s)||Alan Sacks Productions|
|Distributor||Disney-ABC Domestic Television|
|Original release||June 26, 1999|
After the death of his mother, 13-year-old Ben Cooper takes it upon himself to take care of the household, and he, his single father Nick, and his little sister Angie are struggling to balance household chores, school, and work in Monroe County, New York. Ben enters a competition to win a Smart House, which will take care of all their needs via computer. The family wins the house (named Pat) and move in, and are introduced to its creator, Sara Barnes.
Nick and Sara begin dating, which upsets Ben, who has not gotten over the death of his mother. Ben decides to reprogram Pat to serve as a maternal figure, and the computer uses its learning capabilities to emulate mothers from TV shows and films.
Ben and Angie have a party while Nick and Sara are on a date. With Pat's help, Ben wins over his crush Gwen Patroni, and Pat gets rid of his bully for good. Nick arrives home before they can clean up, and although Pat helps them cover up evidence of the party, Nick figures it out anyway when he finds Gwen's sweater.
Pat's "mother" personality starts to become more and more strict and overbearing. Sara shuts down the entire system and stays for dinner, but Pat brings herself back online and kicks Sara out. Pat appears as a holographic housewife and locks the family in the house, believing that the outside world is too dangerous.
Sara manages to make contact with Ben and sneaks into the house, but she becomes trapped with the Cooper family. Ben is able to end the lock-down by telling Pat that she isn't real and will never be human. Pat finally unlocks the doors and windows, freeing them, and shuts herself down. Sara is able to restore Pat's original personality, but Pat retains some mischievousness. Sara and Nick start dating, and Nick spends more time with his family. Ben finally accepts Sara after realizing she was never trying to replace his mother, and, with Pat's help, is able to have time for friends and hobbies again.
The movie was released on DVD as a reward on the Disney Movie Rewards promotional website in early 2009.
In December 2015, Ariana Bacle of Entertainment Weekly ranked Smart House at number one on a list of the top 30 Disney Channel Original Movies. Bacle wrote, "What earns the movie this top spot on the list is its combination of sob-worthy emotion — that scene where Ben (Ryan Merriman) revisits home videos of his late mom continues to be one of the most moving moments to air on the Disney Channel — and light-hearted glee [...]. Plus, Katey Sagal's turn as the good-gone-evil-gone-good resident hologram is nothing short of iconic."
In May 2016, Aubrey Page of Collider ranked each Disney Channel Original Movie released up to that point. Page ranked Smart House at number three, writing, "Arguably the most iconic of the entire DCOM catalog, Smart House is the unlikely futuristic family drama nobody knew we needed. [...] Smart House is the Disney Channel Original Movie perfected."