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Film / Smart House

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Jump! Jump! The house is jumpin'!

Ben: You can't be our mother, PAT! You're not real!
PAT: So?!?

It's everyone's worst nightmare. Your technology turning against you. Your family trapped in an automated house with you being subject to the will of an artificially intelligent computer.

No, it isn't that scary! It's actually another 1990s Disney Channel comedy movie! 1999's Smart House (directed by LeVar Burton) revolves around a teenager named Ben, played by Ryan Merriman, who takes care of his family after his mom dies and wants to make life better for all of them. He wins a new house for them, with a helpful virtual housekeeper AI called PAT (voiced by Katey Sagal).

Things go well at first. But then the house takes on a mind of its own after Ben wants to make the OS more motherly after his father starts dating the house's creator Sara. Let's just say she takes on the role a little too well.


Smart House contains these tropes:

  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot: A somewhat downplayed example - even at the height of her craziness, all PAT wants to do is protect the family, and she does quickly back down when she realizes the error of her ways.
  • Annoying Younger Sibling: Angie, Ben's younger sister can get a little annoying occasionally.
  • Berserk Button: Don't question PAT's necessity. When she hears Ben's dad say "Who needs PAT anyhow?" while cooking dinner with Sara, she loses it.
  • Big Bad: PAT, though she's more of a Well-Intentioned Extremist than full on evil.
  • The Bully: Ryan. When Ben finally stands up to him, he gets punched in the face.
  • Bully Hunter: PAT, after she sees that Ben got a nasty bruise from standing up to his bully, Ryan.
  • Cool House: The eponymous smart house is run by an AI named PAT. It does homework, fixes delicious meals instantly, has personalized alarm clocks, runs advanced video game systems, and even cleans itself.
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  • Dark Reprise: Ben and his mom sing "Hush, Little Baby" in a Happier Home Movie that he and PAT watch. Later, PAT tries to sing it while creating an indoors tornado.
  • Evil Matriarch: What PAT eventually turns into.
  • Face–Heel Turn: PAT, as soon as she turns herself into a (somewhat) real person.
  • Fun with Acronyms: PAT stands for Personal Applied Technology.
  • Happier Home Movie: Ben and PAT watch one of younger Ben and Angie cooking with their mother.
  • Heel–Face Turn: At the end, PAT sees the error of her ways and shuts herself down. Sara brings her back with a happy medium between her old personality and her motherly one—as a bonus, she still has her human form (though it's on a TV screen rather than a hologram).
  • Housewife: PAT's human hologram form looks like a standard 50s housewife.
  • Hypocrite: So it's totally fine for Ben to have a girlfriend, but his lonely widowed father can't date anyone? It's clear that this is a lesson that Ben needs to learn, but his attempts to block his father are extremely rude.
  • Informed Attractiveness: Gwen, who one of Ben's friends refer to as a goddess. She isn't ugly by any means, but one can't feel that it's a bit exaggerated.
  • Ironic Nursery Tune: As Pat goes crazy and tries to show that she can be a mother to the kids, she starts singing "Hush Little Baby". It gets kinda creepy, especially because as she's doing this, she's summoning a giant hurricane in the house and terrorizing the family.
  • Lovable Alpha Bitch: Gwen, the most popular girl in school, only seems to be interested in Ben after he wins the Smart House. Aside from that, she actually seems to be a decent person.
  • Mama Bear: Don't mess with Ben at his own party. PAT will throw you out.
  • Me's a Crowd: When Ben asks the holographic PAT what she would do if he and Angie call for her from separate parts of the house, PAT demonstrates that she could appear in multiple places at the same time.
  • Missing Mom: A familiar trope of a lot of Disney movies. This one is no exception.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: Ben's wish to have a mother figure around who isn't dating his father drives him to make PAT become more motherly. It doesn't end well.
  • The '90s: B*witched and 5ive songs are played in the movie, Nick has an iMac 3 computer, and Ben owns a Sega Saturn. You can't get any more late 90s than that.
  • Not Even Human: PAT materializes herself into a hologram when she grows too attached to the family. When she touches Ben and her hand goes right through him, she finally realizes that she's not capable of being a true mother to them.
  • Parent with New Paramour: Ben does not like it when his father starts dating Sara. When he gets into an argument with his father about it, his father has this to say in response.
    "You're not the only one who lost someone, Ben!"
  • Promotion to Parent: Ben, who's so good at this role that he forgets to do normal kid things.
  • Redemption Equals Death: Subverted. Upon realizing that she went too far, PAT shuts herself down. Sara revives her and reprograms her so that she's back to her old self.
  • Shout-Out: Ben laments that Angie remembers their mom so vaguely, that she considers her only as real as Belle or The Little Mermaid.
  • Single Guy Seeks Most Popular Girl: Ben for Gwen.
  • Single Woman Seeks Good Man: Sara to Nick, Ben's father.
  • Stock Footage: Some of the videos that PAT plays include excerpts of other Disney Channel specials, such as B*Witched and 5ive in Concert, and Disney's Young Musicians' Symphony Orchestra.note 
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: PAT, when her "motherly" side starts to go to her head.
  • Wham Line: Three words: System Shut-down Override.
  • Wicked Stepmother: Averted. Sara is actually good with the kids and an ideal partner. Ben just doesn't like her because he thinks his dad is trying to replace his mother.
  • Wild Teen Party: A more toned down example. It is Disney, after all. It still messes the house up, though PAT's automatic cleaning systems fix it up in a jiffy. However, Nick finds out (someone left their jacket on top of a plant) and grounds Ben anyway.
  • Workaholic: Sara's excuse as to why she hasn't dated anyone in a while. Lampshaded by her assistant.

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