Call it the birth of HAL. Created by his reclusive “father” Charles O’Toole (Rick Ziegler) to help decode a complicated mathematical theorem that, if unraveled, would defeat death, IKE, the mechanical “star” of “The Strange Case of Senor Computer,” evolves an unintended level of consciousness like that earlier notorious artificial intelligence that leads to similarly disastrous results.
Rather than helping man defeat death, the roving golf cart of a robot with a Stephen Hawkings-ish voice synthesizer instead turns into a womanizing liberal arts major and credit card scam artist, largely through the unwitting assistance of O’Toole’s housekeeper Carlotta (Gladys Hans.) Angry at first at this perceived failure, O’Toole eventually enlists IKE’s help to teach him about women; particularly the woman with whom the charismatic robot has been carrying on a phone sex relationship for months. That the film begins and ends with a cliche-ridden police investigation into O’Toole’s suicide tells you all you need to know about how well that turned out. Once Tom Sawyer’s quirky look at love and loneliness finally gets going, it’s actually a witty and wryly amusing Cyrano De Bergerac-like tale. Unfortunately, aside from the fact that this film takes far too long to kick into gear, Sawyer’s saddled what could have been a really unusual and intelligent romantic comedy with tons of pointless digital video effects and painfully piercing electronic music. Yes, IKE’s a lot of fun. But other than its suave and fast-talking robotic star’s incisive logic and amusing naughtiness, “The Strange Case of Senor Computer” has as much warmth as a PC clone.