Matt Frewer, who is probably still best-remembered as television's "Max Headroom" and the wacky neighbor in "Honey, I Shrunk the Kids," would probably be more at home in a spoof of "Lawnmower Man" than a sequel. His rubber-faced attitude is more in line with Jim Carrey than Jeff Fahey, his predecessor in the role of simpleton-turned-genius Jobe.
Hmmm. "Leaf-Raking Man," with Frewer doing cyberspace shtick. It has possibilities.
Alas, despite a couple of early scenes that allow him to mug and be smug, most of "Lawnmower Man 2" requires him to play it straight in the service of yet another high-tech sci-fi thriller that borrows shamelessly from dozens of other movies. ("Blade Runner," "Escape From New York," "Raiders of the Lost Ark," "Star Wars" even "Die Hard" come to mind.)
The first "Lawnmower Man" left off as Jobe (Frewer), who had his brain boosted by futuristic virtual reality experiments, had seemingly died. But as this one begins, Jobe, who has lost his legs, is revived by conniving businessman Walker (Kevin Conway).
Walker promises to make Jobe whole again if he will cooperate with Walker's plans to take over the world through a worldwide virtual reality Internet or, more precisely, to take over the world's banks.
But Jobe is missing an important ingredient to his super-microchip, and he needs the assistance of a scientist named Trace (Patrick Bergin). When Trace sees through Jobe and Walker, he gets help from four homeless teenage hackers to bring them down.
Meanwhile, Jobe causes a subway train and an airliner to crash and kills some individuals who get in his way. He has his own agenda to get into every computer system on Earth and take over as the god of this world. But in the end, he performs a last-minute act of redemption, for a "Return of the Jedi"-like conclusion. Right.
First-time writer-director Farhad Mann comes from television he helmed the pilot for "Max Headroom," as well as dozens of commercials. And he's yet another filmmaker who prizes razzle-dazzle special effects over storytelling.
Those effects are impressive, but the narrative is jumbled, the characterizations are paper-thin, and occasional lines of dialogue spoken by off-screen characters suggest there was some desperation in the editing room.
The audience will also feel desperate to escape the theater.
"Lawnmower Man 2" is rated PG-13 for violence, profanity and vulgarity.