Plot: Ben (Ryan Merriman) struggles with cope with the loss of his mother and while years have passed, the family’s household still has a huge void. Ben’s sister hopes that their father Nick (Kevin Kilner) will find a new love interest soon to help fill that void, while that is the last thing Ben wants. He resents the idea of a new woman in his dad’s life and plans to find a solution to the family’s situation that doesn’t involve a new love for Nick. He enters a sweepstakes for a new home, one equipped with all kinds of high end tech and artificial intelligence, with a central A.I. that more or less functions as the home’s caretaker. When the family wins and moves in, things are great at first, but when Nick takes an interest in the home’s designer and the A.I. seems a little too smart, how will all the chaos work out?
Entertainment Value: This Disney Channel original has a fun premise that seems all too plausible now, but in the late 90s, such automated houses seemed to most like some kind of distant, sci/fi concept. The core of the movie is about a family’s struggle to cope with loss and the challenge of moving on after such a loss, but the tone is lightly comedic with some emotional beats sprinkled in. This kind of narrative is common, but the inclusion of the smart house A.I. Pat adds a fresh slant and I appreciated how goofy the potential romance element was. The humor tends to be slapstick and a lot of it centers on how the house malfunctions, causing various woes and humorous situations. The movie handles the humor better than the more serious moments, but it does give proper time to the grief and coping with loss threads, which gives the movie some substance, even if it doesn’t dig in too deep. The emotional beats are also a little out of place given how odd and over the top the rest of the movie is, but the theme of family is effective and I appreciated the effort.
I would think the draw for most new viewers here is the presence of Katey Sagal and while her role is a prominent one, the performance is primarily voice over and little on screen work. Late in the movie, Pat is able manifest a physical version of herself, but for the most part, this is a vocal role. Which isn’t a knock at all, as I think her fans will appreciate this performance and she nails the “tv mom” element and her slide into madness is well conveyed. Kevin Kilner and Jessica Steen also provide fun turns here, while the cast also includes Ryan Merrima and Katie Volding, with LeVar Burton in the director’s chair. In the end, this is light and breezy comic material that should appeal to fans of the Disney Channel style. But if you aren’t a fan of Disney Channel’s movies, then this one isn’t likely to win you over.