Netflixable? Finding romance in Thailand goes digital — “AI Love You”

There’s a little “ick factor” that nestles itself into the heart of today’s Around the World with Netflix venture, the sci-fi action rom-com “Ai Love You.” This Thai film expects us to root for a machine that’s taken over a hapless human’s body.

But the AI, named “Dob,” takes over Bob out of love. I guess that makes it all right. Hey, “one night in Bangkok” is all that matters.

“AI Love You” is a glossy, high sheen science fiction imagining of the near future, when smart buildings are the rule and digital personal assistants come with that package — intrusive, nosy, interfering and always “monitoring” digital assistants.

Dob the robotic building (cute) has eyes that see over the skyline, and personal data harvesting capabilities that make Facebook seem like rubbing two sticks together. Dob knows Lana (Pimchanok Leuwisetpaiboon) down to her temperature and heart-rate.

“How’d your date go last night?” Dob wants to know. That big presentation she had to give? She blew it, but then, “You heard EVERYthing,” she snaps. Lana is a little leery of this all-invasive digital babysitter’s place in futureculture.

But Dob pitches in with her do-over marketing presentation, and it’s a hit. She overshares with him, and sure enough, he gets the wrong idea
“Love.” After is possible, after all, because “feelings are nothing but codes and numbers.”

Lana brushes him off. And that creep date Bob (Mario Maurer) who took “be a tough guy” rude-jerk suggestions from the online “Love Guru” (David Asavanond)? He doesn’t have a prayer, either.

It’s just that Bob, it turns out, works in IT with the company that maintains this particular smart building. He sees what Dob has been doing, obsessing about and stalking Lana and all. Bob attempts a “2001: A Space Odyssey” computer lobotomy/reset. That’s how Dob shocks his way into Bob’s body, and the romantic possibilities take on flesh-and-blood implications.

Can Dob as Bob turn on the charm that almost worked on “But you’re AI, it would never work” Lana, as Bob? Can Dob as Bob learn to eat, brush his teeth, speak and everything else required to operate as a human body?

There’s nothing particularly serious about this, until you start pondering where technology is taking us, whether we want it to or not.

At one point, Dob as Bob consults Bob’s building’s AI, Chip, for suggestions and advice on correcting his behavior/programming so that he doesn’t get into a nightclub fights or come on too strong to strangers, just to learn how to court Lana. Yes, a machine is helping another machine that’s guilty of a “Level 5 Body Hijack” win the fair lady.

There’s also violence here that’s aimed at both the gadgets and people, which kills any buzz that this somewhat hopeless tale might have generated.

The computer in a human body thing could have delivered laughs, but the slapstick is limited and Mauro’s jerky motions, quizzical looks and machine-as-human quirks never quite get there.

The look of this “future” is sunnier than “Blade Runner,” and the nightclubs have an ’80s Devo music video vibe.

The only laughs here are seeing how the English language dub (it’s in Thai with subtitles, or dubbed) differs — to a profane degree — with the direct Thai translation.

Computers blackmailing people to go on dates, studying us so that they can give us exactly what they calculate that we want? That’s just creepy, and no way no how should anybody be rooting for “Dob/Bob” to “get the girl” at the end.

Rating: TV-14, with violence, crude sexual innuendo and profanity

Cast: Pimchanok Leuwisetpaiboon, Mario Maurer and David Asavanond

Credits: Directed by Stephan Zlotescu and David Asavanond, scripted by Stephan Zlotescu. A Netflix release.

Running time: 1:35

About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
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