The quasi-sci-fi thriller "Surrogates" takes place at least 14 years in the future. Everything looks the same "? all that's different is that people no longer leave their homes, because genius Dr. Canter (James Cromwell) invented robotic surrogates to get out and live people's lives for them.

Trouble erupts when someone "? a real person "? begins blasting surrogates with what looks like a Dustbuster set to "KILL," and the demise of the robot also results in the brain-liquefying of its owner/operator. Two surrogate cops, Tom (Bruce Willis) and Peters (Radha Mitchell) are on the case, and faster than you can say "Isaac Asimov," they uncover a rebellion brewing in the part of town that is for humans only.

Seems the people, led by a charismatic prophet who is part John the Baptist and part David Koresh (Ving Rhames), want to destroy the surrogates and return the planet to its rightful owners: them.

One amusing aspect of the film is seeing the actors and the surrogate versions of themselves. Willis as human Tom is his rightful age, with goatee and stubble on cheeks and pate. Surrogate Tom is years younger, with full head of hair and Ken-doll smoothness of skin. Tom's wife, Maggie (Rosamund Pike), still grieving the death of their son, has let herself go completely to hell "? the makeup work is terrific "? while her surrogate is still the looker.

Despite the sci-fi trappings, 2009's "Surrogates" is essentially a mystery, but the movie is directed with unimaginative competence by Jonathan Mostow ("Terminator 3") who, like the writers, makes science fiction without having much feel for the genre. He doesn't seem to understand that a major appeal of the movies is that film stars, with their good looks and clever dialogue, are our surrogates. We may not fear going out into the world, but we do fantasize about doing it while looking like Brad Pitt or Angelina Jolie.  Some of us want to be them, but a lot more of us think we'd simply enjoy being like their screen persona.

This film is telling us that no, those are not things we should be coveting, that being ourselves is enough and that surrogates allow us to live falsely.

OK, so much for deep meaning. Is the movie good? Not really. Is it fun? Mostly, but not totally. It's a dystopian vision with a happy ending. There's a reason you don't see those very often. "?Doug Bentin

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