The Lawnmower Man (1992) - Plot Summary Poster


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  • A scientist performs experiments involving intelligence enhancing drugs and virtual reality on a simple-minded gardener. He puts the gardener on an extensive schedule of learning, and quickly he becomes brilliant. But at this point the gardener has a few ideas of his own on how the research should continue, and the scientist begins losing control of his experiments.

  • A trip into virtual reality. Angelo has developed a virtual reality system, which truly immerses the user into the world of computer make-believe. The lawnmower man, Jobe, who is intellectually disabled, is put 'into' the system to find out if his intelligence can be improved. It can, but not without some serious side-effects.

  • A simple man is turned into a genius through the application of computer science.


The synopsis below may give away important plot points.


  • Dr. Lawrence Angelo (Larry) works for a governmental institution that is involved with enhancing intelligence through virtual reality. After a project in which a chimp is trained to be a soldier ends in a disaster when the chimp escapes the laboratory Dr. Angelo is send on a leave. After almost falling into a depression he decides to pick up his work at home. This time he tries to enhance the intelligence of the retarded local gardener Jobe Smith, also known as the lawnmower man. To prevent the same disaster as last time from happening, Dr. Angelo decides to leave out the aggressive elements of the previous project and in stead focusses on brain stimulation through the expansion of knowledge with virtual reality and brain stimulating medication. In his every day life Jobe is under the severe supervision of father Francis McKeen. Father McKeen is forceful in his ways of keeping Jobe on track, by submitting him to corporal punishment and penance. Jobe hopes that when he becomes smarter people won't be able to take advantage of him any longer. After the first virtual reality training sessions, Jobe already shows improvement and both Jobe and Dr. Angelo get excited about the results. They seem to get almost obsessed, wanting to push the limits of their experiment further and meanwhile driving Dr. Angelo's wife away. In order to continue the project Dr. Angelo has to involve the laboratory in his experiment. Things start progressing in a rapid speed, when the higher authorities become aware of the project. They force Dr. Angelo's supervisor to reinstate the original project and subject Jobe to the same virtual training as the chimp, making him into a soldier. This is when things take a turn for the worse. Jobe already gained the ability to read people's minds, but is now also able to move objects without touching them. On top of that he is able to manipulate people's minds. He breaks into the laboratory to overdose himself on stimulatory medication and to spend more time in virtual reality, which has become the place where he wants to be most. All these powers get into Jobe's head and he starts seeing himself as a god. He takes a revenge on the people that did him wrong, by burning Father McKeen, killing the abusive neighbor with a lawnmower and possessing the mind of his rival Jake, who has been taunting him for his retardation.

    Meanwhile Dr. Angelo was brought to the institution's officials in Virginia who want more information and control over the project. This is where Dr. Angelo finds out that the original chimp project was reinstated and he soon finds that he has to escape the officials in order to save Jobe from himself. Dr. Angelo finds Jobe at his house where he possesed the mind of Dr. Angelo's wife and explains to Dr. Angelo what his plans are. He wants to dissolve into virtual reality completely from where he will be able to rule the world through all the interlinked networks (i.e. the internet). His birth cry will be all of the world's phones ringing in unison. After tying Dr. Angelo down, Jobe returns to the laboratory where he takes at the entire security team and hooks himself into the virtual reality system to dissolve into the virtual reality completely. When Dr. Angelo frees himself he uses the neighbor's help to get to the laboratory, where he decides to blow up the entire institute. Before the place explodes he isolates the computer system from the internet so that Jobe is not able to exit the institute's mainframe in the virtual reality. Dr. Angelo enters the virtual reality to reason with Jobe, but it's a lost case and Jobe digitally crucifies him. Only when they here the neigbor's kid is in the building Jobe decides the kid needs to be saved and lets Dr. Angelo go. Dr. Angelo and the kid, Peter, are able to escape the building before it blows up. Right before that Jobe finds a backdoor to the rest of the world's networks and when everything seems to end well every single phone in the world starts ringing in unison.

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