1985 in Film – D.A.R.Y.L

Release Date: June 14th
Box Office: $6,561,653

The real question when you start to look at this film is what came first, the name or the acronym?

I mean, Daryl isn’t that great a name to headline a film with, but when you come up with something like Data Analysing Robot Youth Lifeform then you’re kind of backed into a corner.

What we have here is one of those middling family films with kids in the lead that seemed to cover the rental shelves in the 80s. The Goonies. Explorers. The Dirt Bike Kid. Flight of the Navigator. Chuck in a bit of mild salty language and there you go. Fits right in.

D.A.R.Y.L features the eponymous Daryl as a child found in the woods by a kindly couple who is then sent for adoption. Here he reveals various skills that should be beyond a child of his age: instantly picking up the piano; genius level math skills; able to seemingly complete Pole Position on an Atari computer.

Naturally, he’s the product of some ill defined government experiment headed up by some kindly looking man. He returns to bring Daryl back but the general in charge isn’t particularly happy as Daryl doesn’t appear to be the super soldier he was after. Cue chases and gun shots and a tacked on Blackbird sequence.

It’s alright. There are various plot holes you could pilot said Blackbird straight through which would be fine if the film had enough zing to push you past them. But it doesn’t, it meanders along going from here to there with no sense of urgency. Even the whole robot thing just kind of gets dropped in there without much fanfare.

Then there’s the weird changes in tone, like the way Daryl’s friend keeps referring to his sister as a hooker, spying on her getting pecked on the cheek and describing it to Daryl via CB radio as her being raped. Yeah, it’s mixed in with that young child innocence that takes the edge off but it’s still a bit much.

It’s also not a film you can point to and say “look at that amazing person that started there”. The director of the film would go on to have an up and down career; from here onwards you have Quigley Down Under to Free Willyending up at The Phantom taking time to stop off with Harley Davidson and The Marlboro Man. The Boy Daryl, already fresh off the previous year’s Neverending Story will be seen again later this year in Cocoon before fading out of the industry. You could argue that the biggest star of the film is Michael McKean, somehow making this film his follow up to This is Spinal Tap. I know, makes no sense.

It’s not like it’s bad, its a perfectly serviceable film. The cast all do there jobs well and there’s even a pretty good car stunt thrown in there. By the time the film goes full Firefox at the end you’ve had a decent time but thats about it; decent.

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