A Different Oliver with a Twist
"D.A.R.Y.L." is one of those 80s movies which has actually improved with age, not in that it has bucked the trend and not dated because in look it is seriously dated, but because the intelligence and humour of the story is easier to appreciate now. And I suppose that sort of hints at how I felt about "D.A.R.Y.L." when I watched it as a teen at the end of the 80s as whilst I remember being entertained I wasn't wowed by it and it definitely wasn't on my list of watch again 80s movies. But now the thrilling opening impressed, the humour of Daryl being this super child is amusing especially how those around him react to him, the emotion of the story feels more real and whilst the computers on show are seriously dated seeing Pole Position and an old Atari 800 certainly gave me a huge dose of nostalgia.
Following a frantic car chase a young boy called Daryl (Barret Oliver - Cocoon: The Return) is found by the roadside high up in the hills and is taken to a children's home where it is discovered that he is suffering from amnesia. Placed into foster care with Andy (Michael McKean - Mystery, Alaska) and Joyce Richardson (Mary Beth Hurt - Untraceable) Daryl not only feels like he is home but also exhibits some amazing talents from playing Pole Position to hitting the baseball. But when his real parents come forward to claim him not only is it hard for Daryl to leave the Richardson's but also his friend and neighbour Turtle (Danny Corkill). But is all as it seems?
It has to be said that "D.A.R.Y.L." has a surprisingly brilliant opening as we watch this car being chased along a mountain road by a helicopter, dropping off this child in the middle of nowhere and then purposely careering off the edge into a ravine. It is a genuinely exciting opening with both danger and mystery as well as that shock of watching a man intentionally drive his car off the edge and to his death. And what follows on from there whilst no where near as exciting is still thoroughly entertaining as we watch this young boy being taken to a children's home where he exhibits special talents when it comes to memory and eye tests. To put it simply it you are not intrigued by this young boy called Daryl then I don't know what will intrigue you.
And this level of intrigue continues as we watch Daryl placed with a foster family, the Richardson's where he makes friends with neighbour Turtle and continues to exhibit strange abilities. And this kid has some fun abilities from being an ace on Pole Position to hacking cash machines and being a baseball slugger, it is all great fun. But what is really nice about this is whilst we get the expected humour of people being amazed by Daryl's amazing abilities, whilst his ability to hack is in itself quite amusing it isn't condescending or stupid. There is some intelligence to all of these moments of subtle comedy and they all lead to us to wonder exactly who is Daryl and why has he got such strange talents yet knows so little about how to interact people like a child.
But the story doesn't stop there as Daryl's supposedly real parents come to claim him and we learn what the truth is about Daryl. Now I am sure many will know the truth about Daryl but I'm not going to spill the beans as it does add something to the movie with some great scenes and some surprising depth. What I will say is that whilst for around the first 80 minutes "D.A.R.Y.L." works brilliantly it does get a little too far fetched when it comes to the ending and we are talking far fetched for even a sci-fi movie.
Now the thing is that all of this, the intelligence of the story and the humour of Daryl being special seems even more entertaining now than I remembered, it's a case that with age you can appreciate the depths of the story. In fact whilst "D.A.R.Y.L." is most definitely a family friendly sci-fi movie with maybe one or two slightly questionable scenes it actually feels like a movie made for parents more than children with its emotional underbelly.
As for the acting well it's a collective entertaining but basically forgettable even from Barret Oliver who plays Daryl. But because there is no stand out performance, no one looks bad and whilst the facial expression from Michael McKean as Andy Richardson border on the over the top they do add to the humour
What this all boils down to is that "D.A.R.Y.L." is one of those rare 80s movies which is better now than I remembered it. It maybe seriously dated but then at the same time seeing Pole Position being played on an old Atari 800 gives you a huge dose of nostalgia as do various other computer influenced scenes. And the emotional depth of the storyline seems so much more impressive now as does the various moments of action.