Pretty much a permanent fixture on IMDb's Bottom 100 list, 1996's "Lawnmower Man 2: Beyond Cyberspace" is not only widely considered one of the worst sequels ever made... it's widely considered one of the worst films ever made period. While the second claim might be somewhat debatable in retrospect (oh, it's bad... it's really bad, but maybe not "worst of all time bad"), the former is most certainly a given. The original film is a wildly dated but mostly harmless sci-fi thriller about a mentally-challenged man who is granted superhuman intelligence and abilities through the power of virtual reality, sending him spiraling on a path towards an evil plot for world domination. It's forgettable save for its cheesy early-CG effects and a few decent performances by future star Pierce Brosnan and the titular Lawnmower Man Jobe played by Jeff Fahey. It's a mediocre film, but it hit it fairly big at the box office, so a sequel was pretty much guaranteed.
What people couldn't have predicted, however, is just how incredibly insane the follow-up would be. "Lawnmower Man 2" is frankly bizarre, and never anything less than over-the-top from scene to scene. Story goes the studio-suits behind this mess were hoping to spin the series off into a teen-aimed superhero movie franchise set in cyberspace (a far cry from the more deliberate and slow-burn thriller the original was), and this film would be sort-of a stepping stone in that direction. Add to that woeful miscasting of pretty much every lead character, a lot of nonsensical ret-con work that frequently butchers the storyline of the first film and post-production problems including the director being locked out of the editing room... and you pretty much have a recipe for disaster.
Six years after the events of the first film in a now post- apocalyptic world right out of "Blade Runner" (I guess?), Jobe (now played by Max Headroom himself, Matt Frewer) has been discovered and brought back from the brink of death by an evil megalomaniacal VR tycoon, who needs him to perfect the film's MacGuffin- the "Chiron Chip"... the most powerful computer chip ever conceived. After re-discovering his old friend Peter Parkette (Austin O'Brien) in virtual reality, Jobe goes on a quest to track down the creator of VR, Dr. Trace (Patrick Bergin), who has key information that will assist in Jobe taking control of the Chiron Chip... or something stupid like that. Blah, blah, blah... Jobe goes power-crazy yet again and tries to take over the world with the Chiron Chip. Chiron Chip, Chiron Chip... Chiron Chip. You'll be sick of that combination of words by the time the film's over. They say it constantly.
Basically, the film is a weird mixed-drink from Satan's tavern... one part "Blade Runner", one part "Super Mario Bros. The Movie", one part "Tron", one-half part the original "Lawnmower Man"... topped off with five parts "Highlander 2: The Quickening." Garnish with overacting. Serve over ice from Flint, Michigan.
Everything is a fundamental mess. The storyline is nonsensical and completely unclear, with the main focus being on delivering constant techno-babble as often as possible while punctuating every few scenes with an explosion or bizarro murder-sequence as Jobe picks off various targets, though sanitized for a PG-13 rating. As mentioned above, the film's MacGuffin of choice is the "Chiron Chip", though the Chip itself is poorly established and doesn't seem to amount to all that much in the story. There's also some genuinely laughable mis-judgments on the part of the filmmakers to try and gear the film towards children as per studio request... so you get uproarious scenes where the "Information Superhighway" is personified as an actual highway in cyberspace that our heroes get into a car-chase on. I could not stop laughing. Everyone in the cast mugs for the camera in such a way that you cringe so much that you can't help but giggle, with special props going to Frewer, who turns the quiet and sinister Jobe from the first-film into a cackling Jim Carrey wannabe who spouts one- liners at the top of his lungs in every scene. The editing is an absolute mess, with not a single moment given more than an instance of breathing room before it rockets to the next scene... probably because producers oh-so-needed it to appeal to the kids with their "Mtv's and their Nintendo's and whatever kids these days like." And the effects sucked, plain and simple. Not only were they poor in comparison to other films released around the time... they're somehow objectively worse than the effects in the original four years earlier!
Yet... I don't totally hate the film, and I even do have a mild recommendation for it. It's awful. Dreadful. But also kinda entertaining. Fans of trashy B-movies and bad cinema will probably get a kick out of it, much as I did. It's worth watching once for those crowds. I know I couldn't stop laughing at it. It's just so baffling and mind-numbing, that even as you feel your braincells depleting... you might get some serious chuckles thanks to it. Also, I can't help but comment... there is an occasional hint at brilliance here and there. You get the feeling that director/co- writer Farhad Mann was really trying his hardest, and there are a few scenes that are competently filmed and directed. I think there's a significantly better film somewhere beneath the surface that you glean the occasional look at here. Not a good film... but a better film. It'd be interesting to see what his original vision was.
But really, aside from bad-movie buffs, I cannot in good conscience recommend "Lawnmower Man 2" to anyone. It's terrible. Strange. And wildly confusing. And it is easily and indisputably one of the worst sequels ever made, earning a much-deserved 1 out of 10 for me.
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