(In theaters, July 2006) Richard Linklater mystified many observers with Waking Life, but all of the prep work finally pays off in A Scanner Darkly, which uses the curiously off-putting rotoscoped animation technique to good effect in representing the inner life of heavy drug users. Things are never what they seem as even the shapes keep shifting on viewers. Yet the heaviest irony of this science-fiction film is how the SF elements are the film’s least convincing aspect. For all of Dick’s clever positioning of his themes in a triangle between paranoia, surveillance and drugs, it’s the home life of his blasted-out protagonists that is the most interesting. When the glossy SF elements are introduced, they feel like a distraction from the story’s real content. Alas, the end result is a film that dawdles a long time before getting down to business abruptly and decisively. When it ends, we’re left contemplating a fascinating premise, an intriguing atmosphere, a merciless twist but a wafer-thin plot. While I remain unconvinced by the overall appeal of the film, it’s hard to deny that it’s crammed with a number of great moments.