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‘I.Q.’ Scores Fairly High on Zee Fun, Cuteness Scales

<i> Lynn Smith is a staff writer for The Times' Life & Style section. </i>

In “I . Q . ,” physicist Albert Einstein (Walter Matthau) plays cupid along with his Princeton cohorts in an effort to unite a love-struck mechanic (Tim Robbins) and Einstein’s niece (Meg Ryan), a mathematician who is already engaged to a stuffy psychologist. (Rated PG)

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There’s a message in this romantic comedy: “Don’t let your brain interfere with your heart.” Or, as Einstein puts it, “Vee sqveeze zee brain a little to make room for zee heart.”

Einstein and his eccentric friends worry because, while it’s clear from the first fateful glance that Ed Walters, the mechanic, and Catherine Boyd, Einstein’s niece, are soul mates, she resists. The problem? Even though she’s working on her dissertation in mathematics, she believes the only way she can make a contribution to the world is to marry a genius and produce genius children.

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To pique her interest in Ed, the professors try to turn him into a cold-fusion expert with a plan for nuclear-powered space travel.

Understandably, the message part of the movie might be over the heads and hearts of those who are still occupied with homework and teddy bears.

Still 1 1/2 hours of sweet, intelligent humor and great acting can’t be too awful for anyone, and kids graded the film no lower than a B-minus.

Damien Jones, 13, and a pal, both in backward baseball caps, said the movie rated a B-minus. “It was all right,” Damien said. Just all right.

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But Cassie Shaffer, 12, gave it an A-plus.

“I loved it,” said Cassie, who had just seen the movie for the second time. “It was really funny and was really, like, cute. It didn’t have any (bad) language or anything else in it, so it was really good.”

Sex is limited to a single, sophisticated double-entendre, and the only reference to violence is an anti-war speech by Einstein.

All things considered, Cassie’s sister Claire, 9, said she liked “all of it.”

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Eight-year-old Jonathan Rosenberger was also enthusiastic--especially over scenes where Ed introduces the brilliant, frizzy-haired professor to the pleasures of riding fast in the open air. “I remember the most about when they were on the motorcycle and Albert Einstein goes, ‘Wahoo!’ and they jump off,” he said.

His sister Jenny, 12, said she laughed when Einstein conspired to take Ed and Catherine on a boat ride without her fiance. “He kept steering it so she would fall on him. It was funny,” she said.

The movie was better than she expected, she said. “I thought it would be a scientific movie. But it really wasn’t.”

Even if hearts win out over heads, science gets some good PR. Ed is a science-fiction buff fascinated by comets, and Catherine is the daughter of a scientist who discovered one.

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Most of the laughing came from adults in the audience. Clearly, they loved Matthau’s interpretation of the kind genius in high-water pants, with raised eyebrows and half-moon eyes.

Five-year-old Anne Marie Arnold put it this way: “He’s weird.”


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