We might re-name this column Who's Afraid of a Happy Ending? After all the fuss over whether Shrek's conclusion was happy, another movie is dividing critics over its last minute surprises and tearjerking contrivances.

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David is a robot. He's been given to a needy family, the Swintons, to help them through a time of grieving and stress while their real son Martin lies comatose. He's considered a toy, but it quickly becomes apparent he's not just a plaything. At first, Monica Swinton feels insulted, and frightened too, to have such a strange "substitute son" in the house. But as little David's all-too-human charms go to work, she decides to flip the switch that makes him special. He's the first robot to be programmed to "love" his mother. When David's "love" begins, Monica begins to know joy and healing. But nobody, not even the robot makers, realize what they've done. And when such childlike love feels threatened, or learns about the reality of death, other lifelike qualities develop: jealousy, fear, and anger. Will David's new family persevere, and love him back? Or will he become "inconvenient," or perhaps too dangerous?

This is the premise of Steven Spielberg's new futuristic epic A.I. (Artificial Intelligence). The movie recalls Pinocchio, The Velveteen Rabbit, and many other fairy tales. The Swintons struggle over the responsibility we have for those we bring into the world. The dilemma of Cybertronics, the company that invents David, is part of a larger debate about science, technology, and our responsibility for the things we create. Above all, it is a cautionary tale about how our arrogance can set in motion things we cannot control. As Jeff Goldlbum's character said to the dinosaur makers in Jurassic ...

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