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Somewhere between "2001: A Space Odyssey" and the ignoble invasion of George Lucas and Steven Spielberg, there was a wonderful era of ambitious, heady science fiction. "Z.P.G." is an underachieving relic from that time. Oliver Reed (wasted in a repressed, unemotional role) and Geraldine Chaplin are a couple in a near-future world where dire overpopulation has mandated a 30-year ban on having children. Wannabe parents fill the void with government-supplied, computerized dolls, but you can imagine what an unsatisfying substitute they are. Reed and Chaplin decide to have a baby in secret, but they will be suffocated in a mobile "extermination chamber" if they are caught.
The setting is exceedingly bleak -- smiles are rare, and the area population spends most of its time sadly pining for extinct pleasures (not only children, but even animals and plants) through archival movies and museum exhibits. Food is synthetic, and gas masks are required when walking outdoors. The impenetrable smog that is everywhere (even at ground level) seems as much a fictional hazard as just a way to avoid constructing sets -- this movie obviously didn't have much budget. The doll toddlers are hideous and, except for the puzzling overuse of garish saffron sweaters, the costumes are dull and easily ignored. But against all odds, the script does manage to concoct a solid resolution to a seemingly impossible dilemma.
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