Number 5 is a robot, built for military applications then sent haywire after a quick zap of lightning, he was one of a series designed to strike fear in the hearts of enemies awaiting ground troops – though in reality the tank-like tracks and ungainly movements would likely have them standing on the first step while pointing and laughing at what looks like $80 worth of scrap metal.
In any case there is no room for deep thought here, Short Circuit is a kid’s flick, albeit one with low level sexual innuendo and casual racist stereotypes, stereotypes which regrettably provide most of the comedic moments on offer.
With the lightning strike comes self awareness and a thirst for knowledge, referred to incessantly as ‘input’. Number 5 wanders the landscape full of curiosity and wonder, like a formerly igloo-bound eskimo visiting a zoological gardens. Everything is amazing, every interaction a learning experience.
So it is obviously shocking to Number 5 once he finds that his former masters the US Army wish to not only retrieve him, but to reboot him back to factory standard settings; to ‘disassemble’ – another word used all too often.
Stephanie plays the lovely human who takes a roaming Number 5 in to her home. Newton (Steve Guttenberg) is his creator, and Ben (Fisher Stevens) his Indian-American assistant. It is Ben who gets most of the dialogue and every semi-decent line, usually at the expense of common English phrases and terminologies. You know how easy it is to tweak a familiar phrase for comedic effect, but dammit you end up laughing anyway.
Number 5 eventually becomes Johnny 5 and coins the tagline ‘Number 5 is alive’, but while there is a certain level of warmth and enjoyment in the non-threatening material, there isn’t a huge amount of ‘life’ to be located by anyone over 10 years of age.
Final Rating – 7 / 10. But of course that didn’t stop Short Circuit 2 from finding life only a few years later…
Like Babe 2, once you’ve animated a being and made the audience content that it can talk and think for itself, you must take said being and put it in unfamiliar situations.
Hence five minutes into Short Circuit 2 Johnny 5 trundles from a large packing crate to find himself smack dab in the big city, a posted present from Newton and Stephanie who both live in less hectic regions. So much less hectic that they don’t even bother appearing.
Nope, this is the Ben and Johnny show. Ben continues to butcher his adopted language, and Johnny finds input and astonished faces as he cruises the busy city streets.
Short Circuit 2 somehow boasts the same impact as the first even though it is stripped back to the most base elements. Perhaps the familiarity brings comfort. Perhaps mildly amusing is more welcome than unamusing. In fact the entire film is slight; slightly amusing, slightly adult, slightly rude and (still) slightly racist in a guilty way.
It is the film version of Jennifer Lopez. It does nothing well but somehow people like it (though I detest Lopez).
And this time it’s in the city.
Final Rating – 6.5 / 10. My 7 year old still loved it, but I couldn’t locate the endearment program the second time around.