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Love Goes On-Line in 'Dreams'


Anyone who has ever waged war with a home computer system, wrestled an automated teller machine or cursed out a VCR, should appreciate "Electric Dreams."

Billed as a "fairy tale for computers," this 1984 comedy tells the story of Miles (Lenny Von Dohlen), an absent-minded architect, and Edgar (the voice of "Harold and Maude" star Bud Cort), his user-friendly computer.

At first, Miles is reluctant to solicit the help of a machine. "I don't know anything about computers," he tells the sales lady at the electronics store.

"Nobody does," she replies, "but don't you want one when you do find out?"

When Miles takes Edgar home, he is dazzled by the computer's vast capabilities. It cooks, assists him in his business and guards his apartment. It even composes music to help Miles win the love of Madeline (Virginia Madsen), a beautiful cellist who lives in the room overhead.

The only trouble is, Edgar becomes all too human. "He" gets jealous and, wanting Madeline for himself, creates one of cinema's more bizarre love triangles. Toss in a third love interest, played by Maxwell Caulfield in a rehash of his role from "Grease 2," and the sparks really begin to fly.

While Madsen ("Slam Dance") is both alluring and intelligent, and Von Dohlen adds depth to the traditional computer nerd role, the success of the movie ultimately falls on Edgar's metallic shoulders.

Credit also belongs to director Steve Barron (responsible for Michael Jackson's "Billie Jean" video), who skillfully marries the motion picture with the rock video here. Giorgio Morodor's pulsating score and nine original rock songs keep the pace lively and upbeat. The colorful computer sequences are ideally suited for the screen, and are in fact best enjoyed on a big screen with stereo sound.

Unfortunately, "Electric Dreams" has another thing in common with most rock videos: It's strong on music and visual effects, while somewhat lacking in story development. Barron, who later directed "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles," makes Edgar's humanization believable, and the romance between Miles and Madeline is charming if not moving, but the rest of the plot could use a little charging up.

Nevertheless, this is a lighthearted romantic comedy that has its moments, both humorous and thought-provoking. And, if nothing else, "Electric Dreams" helps bring us a little closer to understanding those electronic gadgets that now share nearly all our homes.

"Electric Dreams" (1984). Directed by Steve Barron. 96 minutes. PG.

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