No one tell Spike Jonze, the director of the new sci-fi romance film, Her, but Disney Channel beat him to the whole “intuitive robot lady” finish line about 14 years ago. You see, just because Joaquin Phoenix grew a creepstache and wore tweed pants for this movie, that doesn’t mean that I could do anything other than compare it to Smart House the entire time I watched. Spoiler alert: I couldn’t.
Full disclosure, I’m nothing short of obsessed with Smart House. Aside from being lightyears ahead its time —we were still working with the floppy disc in 1999— it’s also just a fun movie with a cool concept. Her, on the other hand, manages to have that same idea and still be a boring movie. It tells the story of Theodore Twombly, a guy who ends up falling in love with Samantha (voiced by Scarlett Johansson), an operating system that he buys to ease his loneliness. He brings it everywhere with him and talks to it like it’s a real human person. That may make your brain think back on a Real Girl purchased by a certain Lars, or that one episode of The Big Bang Theory, but don’t you dare forget about the cinematic masterpiece that is Smart House.
Don’t get me wrong, I always appreciate movies that take risks because a girl can only watch so many meet-cutes before she wants to tape her eyelids shut. But Her seems like it was so focused on being different that it forgot to make me care much about the characters and their problems. I’d say it could stand to take a few notes from Smart House, but let me tell you, it feels like it already has.
Along with the sweet gifs from Smart House are some spoilers, so read with caution. (Or read on with reckless abandon, I’m not the boss of you.)
1. The robot in question is sentient.
I don’t know why, but people in movies can’t get enough of making computerized things with the power to think and feel like humans. In Smart House, the boy genius wins PAT, a house’s operating system that will meet his and his family’s every whim and in Her, Theodore buys an operating system that will… right, meet his every whim. They obviously don’t watch nearly enough SyFy channel, because I can always see from the very beginning that that’s a terrible idea.
2. Which, of course, leads to the robot becoming too advanced.
Like former child stars are bound to have a nude scandal, sentient robot characters in movies are bound to go from awesomely human-like to alarmingly human-like. For Theodore, that happened the moment that Sam started to develop insecurities and started to nag him, and, for the Coopers, when they were held hostage by their tyrannical house cyborg. Same thing, right?
3. The robot ends up being super jelly.
Theodore is just starting divorce proceedings when he buys Sam, and, because of this, she starts to get jealous on account of his ex-wife (played by Rooney Mara) having a body and all. And, well, PAT flies directly off the handle and does not stop at GO in her quest to be the world’s greatest mombot.
4. The robot really wishes it were a human.
Both of the movies end with the robot ladies accepting the fact that they’ll never be human. PAT stops holding the Coopers as captives in their own home and Sam runs off to frolic with all of her other hyper-advanced OS friends. I’m actually not kidding, this is a real and ridiculous thing that happens.
You can catch Her in theaters on January 10. Or you can just watch Smart House and save yourself the trip.