Professor Harry Wolper (Peter O'Toole) works at a medical establishment and is hoping to secure the assistance of a new student for help in his prized project. What he is working on is the revival of his thirty years dead wife Lucy, and he thinks that the cloning technology he is developing could be the way forward to bringing her back. The student he chooses to help him is Boris (Vincent Spano) who has just started his studies there and was supposed to be assigned to Harry's great professional rival, Sid (David Ogden Stiers) and he is furious when he finds out that Harry has appropriated Boris for his own work. In fact, the main reason that Boris has agreed to go along with Harry is that he has promised to tell him the name of an attractive technician (Virginia Madsen) who he met briefly but didn't get the chance to make an impression with.
And so the wonders of love weave their spell in what might be termed a willfully eccentric comedy drama, with a touch of science fiction because what are university comedies without that element? Maybe something close to palatable? Creator, adapted from Jeremy Leven's own novel by himself, is quite stupendously misguided in its steadfast belief in how funny and touching it is, and coasts on O'Toole's considerable charm for most of the running time. So bizarrely does it labour under this misapprehension that the film is actually the cutest thing on celluloid, that it becomes compelling to watch despite itself, making you wonder with appalled fascination where it's headed next.
Taking the premise that might have filled up seventy minutes of a mad scientist horror of the nineteen-thirties or -forties is not such a bad thing in itself, but emphasising the sentimental aspects of a man obsessively and morbidly holding onto the memory of his dead wife certainly doesn't fill the heart with warmth. If Harry is such a genius, how exactly does he conceive this project could possibly work? If he did manage to grow his wife in an enormous test tube, he'd be dead himself by the time she had reached adulthood and who's to say she'd be interested in him if he wasn't? We're not talking soul transference here, this is not a Mummy movie. Yet Harry advertises for an egg donation, and finds a donor in the shape of Meli (Mariel Hemingway), a self-proclaimed nineteen-year-old nymphomaniac who can't stop having orgasms.
If that weren't queasy enough, the bubbly Meli falls in love with Harry, and we see them enjoying each other's company as they listen to Beethoven on synthesisers, play the piano and in one shot of this montage, Meli donates an egg - yes, we see O'Toole with his hands up Hemingway. And this is supposed to be life affirming and leave you misty eyed. Meanwhile, Boris, who owns a robot which electrocutes him if he doesn't get out of bed early enough, falls in love with the technician (who is called Barbara) and persuades her to move in with him. The stage is set for grand themes of the power of love, the looming of death and the benefits of moving on in life, but they're so hamfistedly portrayed that the result is a baffling one. This is unbelievably schmaltzy by the end (Babs lapses into a coma - well, it's one way of getting out of the film) and incredibly we're supposed to be benignly dazzled by the idiosyncrasies on show. About the best thing about it is Madsen's gratuitous shower scene. Music by Sylvester Levay.