Short Circuit (1986)

27 Mar


Smith’s Verdict: *1/2

Reviewed by Tanner Smith

The only success that comes out of “Short Circuit” is a lovable creature. Everything else falls flat—the story, the acting, and the pacing. The creature is a robot called Number Five—it’s the most likable robotic special effect this side of R2D2. Unlike R2, which only has a comic personality by its constant beeping and translations by C-3PO, Number Five has a voice and a personality all its own.

The cute-looking robot comes from an assembly line of other robots, built by the military as weapons. But Number Five is different. After being struck by lightning, its circuits are fried in such a way that he is, in fact, alive in the way that it can think for itself. It is no longer controlled by the military anymore. Needing input, Number Five escapes the facility and wanders the streets.

This will not do. The robot’s creator (Steve Guttenberg) and his assistant (Fisher Stevens, a white man playing an Indian man—stereotypical accent and all) are sent to locate Number Five and bring it back, while also to disassemble in order to “find the bug.” They do not know Number Five is alive—how could anybody begin to fathom that? And soon, the whole military is out to find Number Five and shut it down…permanently.

Number Five finds a woman named Stephanie (Ally Sheedy). She’s a friendly animal lover and she thinks that Number Five is an alien seeking input on Earth. She shows it around the house and gives it an encyclopedia to read (it reads the whole thing in about ten seconds). When she realizes that Number Five is in fact a robot, she is about to turn it over to the military until she realizes that Number Five isn’t a robot at all—it can think, it’s alive. To disassemble it would be to kill it.

And so, “Short Circuit” becomes a similar movie to “E.T.” and not a particularly good one either. This movie is so full of cuteness that it really overstays its welcome. I didn’t like (or rather, I didn’t care the slightest for) any of the science involved, I didn’t think the story went anywhere special, and I certainly didn’t like the people involved. Steve Guttenberg is definitely not the best choice to play this brilliant scientist that created Number Five—he overacts and comes off as annoying, and when he’s not overacting, he’s just bland. Ally Sheedy is no better, partially because her character is so dim and not well thought out. The screenplay has a lot of faults to distracting effect. It’s dumb, obvious, and simple—this movie could play better to small children, but what is it really doing to their minds?

The only creative element of “Short Circuit” is Number Five. Voiced by Tim Blaney and constructed by the ILM Company, Number Five has a great comic personality. The robot is starving for more input and wouldn’t you know it? He watches so much TV that he sometimes mimics what he’s only seen on TV in order to get himself out of sticky situations. And it’s a great-looking robot—almost cute, if you really look at it. Number Five deserves a much better movie.

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