Becoming human was not part of the plan. Now they want to terminate him.


"Daryl" (whose name is an acronym for "Data-Analysing Robot Youth Lifeform") (Barret Oliver) is an experiment in artificial intelligence, created by the government. Although physically indistinguishable from an ordinary ten-year-old boy, his brain is actually a super-sophisticated microcomputer with several unique capabilities. These include exceptional reflexes, superhuman multitasking ability, and the ability to "hack" other computer systems. The D.A.R.Y.L. experiment was funded by the military, with the intention of producing a "super-soldier". One of the original scientists has misgivings about the experiment and decides to free Daryl, but is killed in the process.

Daryl is found by an elderly couple and taken to an orphanage. He does not remember who or what he is. Though a normal pre-adolescent boy in most aspects, Daryl begins to exhibit extraordinary talents after he goes to live with foster parents Joyce (Mary Beth Hurt) and Andy Richardson (Michael McKean), including uncanny abilities at baseball, interaction with ATMs, and in playing video games. He is also introduced to the neighbors of the Richardsons: Howie (Steve Ryan) and Elaine Fox (Colleen Camp) and their children Sherie (Amy Linker) and Turtle (Danny Corkill). As Daryl was raised in isolation, his social skills are quite limited. His friend Turtle, who is unusually vulgar and obnoxious even for a ten-year-old boy, helps him develop them.

However, just as the Richardsons have truly begun to form a bond with Daryl, their new-found happiness is shattered when the government finds and returns him to the facility where he was created. Once there, his memory is restored and he is debriefed on the lessons he learned during his time with the Richardsons. Notable lessons include his decision to strike out at a baseball game, because "under certain conditions [relating with others], error was more efficient than maximum performance", and his subjective preference for chocolate over vanilla ice cream. Because Daryl has revealed a capacity for human emotions (including fear), the D.A.R.Y.L. experiment is considered a failure by the military and the decision is made that the project be "terminated". Dr. Stewart (Josef Sommer), one of Daryl's designers, decides to free Daryl so he can return to the Richardson family. Unfortunately, despite the cooperation of Dr. Lamb (Kathryn Walker) in the escape, who was originally skeptical about Daryl's humanity and had alerted the military to Daryl's continued existence, they do not get away cleanly. When asked by the military to justify her complicity, Dr. Lamb offers a reformulation of the Turing test: "General, a machine becomes human ... when you can't tell the difference anymore.", implying that she is no longer certain that Daryl is not human.

Daryl and Dr. Stewart escape the first wave of pursuers, thanks to Daryl's advanced driving skills, apparently acquired through playing the Pole Position racing video game and watching a driving stuntman on television. However, when passing two police roadblocks, Dr. Stewart is mortally wounded by a police officer. With his dying words, he assures Daryl that he is indeed a real person. Continuing his escape, Daryl infiltrates a nearby airbase and steals an SR-71 Blackbird to return to the Richardsons, and communicates by radio with his friend Turtle to arrange a meeting point. After being warned that the plane will be blown up mid-flight by the US Air Force using a self-destruct mechanism (as their missiles cannot intercept it), Daryl ejects at the last moment, faking his own destruction. The ejection knocks him unconscious and his parachute falls into a lake, causing him to drown and show no signs of life. His friend Turtle and Turtle's sister Sherie arrive at the lake in time to see Daryl floating unconscious on the surface, and Turtle rescues Daryl while Sheree flags down a car for help. After Daryl is taken to hospital and announced deceased, Dr. Lamb finds him and reactivates his electronic brain, restoring him to life. Recognised as officially deceased by the military, Daryl is free to return to his foster family, and the final scene shows him being reunited with the Richardsons.






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Directed by Simon Wincer
Produced by John Heyman
Burtt Harris
Gabrielle Kelly
Written by David Ambrose
Allan Scott
Jeffrey Ellis
Starring Barret Oliver
Mary Beth Hurt
Michael McKean
Danny Corkill
Music by Marvin Hamlisch
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
Release date(s) June 14, 1985
Running time 99 mins.
Language English
Budget $12 million