NEWS

Movie review: 'Splice' an entertaining romp through the world of genetics

Al Alexander

From the moment I laid eyes on Dren, I knew I wanted to get inside those designer genes. After all, what man could resist her triple-jointed legs, perfectly proportioned gills and wings wider than Kim Kardashian’s bum.

She’s easily the hottest sex goddess research seed money can buy. And, boy, are her mad-scientist parents proud. As well they should be, as they stand at the cusp of reaping the lucrative financial spoils from their marvelous creation.

Unfortunately for them, writer-director Vincenzo Natali has more sinister plans in store with his slyly satirical tale of genetics run amok. It’s called “Splice,” an apropos moniker for a sci-fi horror tale that extracts the DNA from classics like “Frankenstein,” “Rosemary’s Baby” and “Mommy Dearest” and melds them into an intriguing mish-mash of ick and yuks.

It’s not particularly memorable or groundbreaking, but “Splice” is certainly entertaining in a manner befitting a movie that’s often smart and almost always sexy.

Natali (“Cube”) deserves credit for the former, but the latter is all due to the trio of lust-inspiring actors he’s assembled to provoke and titillate with beguiling mugs and sinewy bods that less attractive folks can only dream about having.

Leading the aesthetic assault are Adrien Brody and Sarah Polley as morally ambiguous geneticists who – in one grand gesture before their benefactor closes down their research lab – conduct the experiment to end all experiments by tossing together bits of DNA from just about every creature, including humans, and letting the mixture gestate inside an incubator.

A couple days later, out pops Dren (nerd spelled in reverse), a sort of tadpole with a human head and torso attached to a set of wings and shapely bird legs. As a child, Dren possesses strong simian tendencies, but as she rapidly grows into adolescence and takes the form of French beauty Delphine Chaneac (looking like the bald love child of Sinead O’Connor and Billy Corgan), science quickly takes a backseat to sex.

Dren is hot for Brody’s Clive and Polley’s Elsa is hot at Dren for being hot for Clive. Jealousy and physical abuse quickly ensue, and no man – or cat – is safe from all the hen fighting taking place, appropriately enough, on Elsa’s farm, where Dren is being secretly kept under wraps.

As fans of “Frankenstein” know, it’s not wise to keep a manmade monster restrained. And Clive and Elsa (the names an homage to Colin Clive and Elsa Lanchester from the “Frankenstein” flicks of the 1930s) are, as you’d expect, about to pay the price.

To combat the utter predictability of his cautionary tale, Natali mixes up the perfunctory with unexpected bits of sharp, but subtle humor, not to mention some keen insights on how people who attempt to fool Mother Nature often end up fooling themselves.

The performances are also a plus, as are the seamless special effects overseen by producer Guillermo del Toro (“Pans Labyrinth,” “Hell Boy”).

But all of that is secondary to the movie’s ability to make you think and smile at the same time. In other words, the perfect DNA for a summer blockbuster that dares to ask if it’s socially acceptable to bed the left-of-centaur critter you cooked up in the lab.

Dear Abby or Amy Vanderbilt are probably the only people who truly know the answer to that one. But in their absence I’m going to go out on a limb and say that it’s OK, especially if the critter looks as sexy as my adorable, man-eating Dren.

Al Alexander may be reached at aalexander@ledger.com.

SPLICE (R for disturbing elements including strong sexuality, nudity, sci-fi violence and language.) Cast includes Adrien Brody, Sarah Polley and Delphine Chaneac. Written and directed by Vincenzo Natali. 3 stars out of 4.