short-circuit-movie-poster-1986-1020252841

Review: SHORT CIRCUIT (1986)

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Best Bad Quote:
“Death is forever.”
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Who doesn’t remember the lovable and charismatic personality that was Johnny-5? I wore this VHS out as a kid. The soundtrack alone is mesmerizing. Whatever happened to El Debarge? He had the voice of an angel: “‘Who’s Johnny,’ she said!” Indeed, who IS Johnny? Well, as it happens, this robotic embodiment of technological excellence is a S.A.I.N.T– Strategic Artifically-Intelligent Nuclear Transport– the latest product of military gadgetry devised by the greatest Gutenberg brains at Nova. An inhuman, emotionless, nearly impervious weapon of mass destruction (‘Murica, f*ck yeah!), a SAINT is the perfect, Universal Soldier– a moment of silence please for Dolph Lundgren. After a demonstration of the robot troupe’s capabilities, something crazy happens to model #5. He is struck by lightning, shuts down, then reanimates, suddenly possessing original thoughts, feelings, and an insatiable need for “input.” (Insert Frankenstein comparisons here). When #5 goes missing, it is up to his creator Newton Crosby (the Gute) and his silly side-kick with his silly Indian accent, Ben Jabituya (Fisher Stevens), to get the potentially dangerous ‘bot back to Nova!
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But, #5 is actually harmless. His childlike innocence poses no threat to society. The ‘short circuit’ he endured has actually made him a real, live wire and force for good. (Why am I not rich)? When he takes sanctuary with the animal loving Stephanie Speck (Ally Sheedy)– who mistakes him for an alien, then gets angry at him ’cause he’s not (?)– he starts to learn all about life. He blows through her Encyclopedia Britannica, absorbs the world of television, learns to dance, cook, drive, and do some pretty skilled impressions. Unfortunately, he also crushes a grasshopper while mimicking his hopping skills. This is when the plot darkens. “Reassemble,” #5 says. “No,” Stephanie assures him. “No reassemble.” Thus, the robot’s heart of gold is broken by the awareness of his own mortality. This is the fate of all input seekers… Damn that tree of knowledge and its forbidden fruit! Stephanie must now help #5 evade capture by Nova, so he is not “disassembled,” convince the skeptical Newton that “five is alive,” and hopefully find a place where they can co-exist in their forbidden love. (Oh, Stephanie and #5 definitely have sex. When he takes her dancing, you can feel their chemistry reaching a dangerously erotic fever pitch. Next thing you know, it’s morning and he’s making her breakfast. Savvy? It’s not bestiality exactly… More like a little healthy “robotica.” Seriously, why am I not rich)?
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This movie is a stupid delight. For one thing, everyone in the cast speaks at least two or three levels above their true vocal range in exaggerated, comic histrionics. The Gute is the worst offender, and his nasal pitchiness makes you wonder if he too is not some kind of (slightly) more advanced computer-bot– the missing link between #5 and the Terminator. Ally Sheedy is a wide-eyed, gaping mouthed bandit of idiocy, and her intimidating chin– coming in second only to Sigourney Weavers’– is at full force. She is also a racist who upon meeting Ben asks what “planet” he, the Indian, is from. Clearly, she wants everyone to be an alien. Maybe she’s one… The missing link between ET and Sil from Species? For his part, while it would have been much classier to have someone of actual Indian descent play Ben, Stevens does a pretty commendable, likable job in the unforgiving role, which is perhaps why he was initiated to take the helm in Short Circuit 2. Boom! G.W. Bailey of Police Academy also makes an appearance as the token, violence-hungry soldier, but the true wonder is #5, who later changes his name to Johnny 5– in homage to his favorite song, of course.
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While the story is ludicrous and the human performances as annoying as the letter F, the special effects are pretty amazing. Considering that this was before the days of CGI-don’t care, the fact that some great mind was able to design a robot in such a way that he could exhibit emotion and display lifelike, human reactions is still very impressive. I kind of want Johnny 5 to be my best friend, both because he shares my unfortunate input addiction and has a charming voice that makes everything sound better, however staccato the result: “Colt-forty-five… Semi-automatic… Plaaaay-doh!” Bad-ass. (Did I mention that Steven Gutenberg and Ally Sheedy have matching haircuts)?
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Rating:
4 out of 5 Pistons of Vengeance
five five five five
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