The Virginian-Pilot
                             THE VIRGINIAN-PILOT 
              Copyright (c) 1996, Landmark Communications, Inc.

DATE: Wednesday, January 17, 1996            TAG: 9601170035
TYPE: Movie Review 
                                             LENGTH: Medium:   70 lines


AS IF MORE proof were needed, ``Lawnmower Man 2: Beyond Cyberspace'' again suggests that it is not easy to turn computer-like games into hit movies. So far, the Internet, virtual reality and all those ``on-line'' pastimes have proven unappealing to ticket buyers.

Hollywood obviously has more hacks than hackers out there in the wake of such flops as ``Johnny Mnemonic,'' ``Strange Days,'' ``Virtuosity'' and even further back, ``Tron.'' None of these light-chasers appealed to wide audiences.

If only flashing lights were enough, ``Lawnmower 2'' would score easily. The special effects in this one are a good deal more impressive than in the first film, the surprise sci-fi hit of 1992. There is a subway and airplane crash. There is a futuristic city that looks like a poor man's ``Blade Runner.'' There are futuristic motorscooters that race around, going nowhere. There are lots of flashing lights and vanishing beings who look like fugitives from MTV videos.

If humans beings were equipped with eyes and no minds, this movie might work. As it is, we get a lot of ultra-silly mumbo jumbo like, ``Virtual reality will possess your mind, and then your body.'' Get real.

The plot of the 1992 original was easily forgettable, which makes it easier for the new production. Pierce Brosnan, the new 007, has now gone on to better projects. Jeff Fahy, who played Jobe, the simple-minded title character turned genius, has been replaced by Matt Frewer, who also was robot-like in ``Max Headroom.''

The first hour of this 90-minute film is so confusing that there is nothing to do except relax and look at the flashing lights and tiny time models.

There is much too much talk, though, about finding the secret of ``the Egypt'' and securing the right chip for this or that. Everyone is trying to ``jack in'' to this or that, and none of it makes any sense.

Frewer's character lives inside cyberspace and plans to take over all the Internet systems in the world. He wants to double cross his boss, a rich tycoon played by Jeff Conway.

Patrick Bergin, done up in dreadlocks, is a faded scientist who invented the whole mess. He's hiding in the wilderness because he fears what evil folks might do with it.

A group of teenage hackers seek him out to help stop the evildoers. The juveniles, who act more like robots than Frewer, are led by Austin O'Brien, who co-starred in ``Last Action Hero.''

By the film's end, there's a crisis with a time limit. But seldom has a countdown meant so little. There is no tension in this cyberspace. ILLUSTRATION: NEW LINE CINEMA photo<

Jobe (Matt Frewer) activates a sinister computer network.



``Lawnmower Man 2: Beyond Cyberspace''

Cast: Patrick Bergin, Matt Frewer, Ely Pouget, Austin O'Brien,

Kevin Conway

Director and Screenplay: Farhad Mann

Music: Robert Folk

MPAA rating: PG-13 (simulated violence)

Mal's rating: one and 1/2 stars

Locations: Cinemark, Greenbrier Mall in Chesapeake; Circle 4,

Main Gate in Norfolk; Columbus, Kemps River, Lynnhaven Mall in

Virginia Beach

by CNB