* batteries not included (Review)

It was inevitable that the iPods would take control eventually.

Here’s a film that either hated Cocoon for beating it to the punch or was trying to cash in on the success of the ‘oldies find the secret of youth with extra terrestrial help’ flick. Seeing as how both films share a couple of leads I would unfortunately be forced to assume the latter is true.

But * batteries not included isn’t a mere Coc-clone, it is a fairly entertaining film in its own family friendly way, it just isn’t different enough to stand out.

The plot concerns the locals in an ‘urban area’, where the crappy state of the neighbourhood and the ideal nature of the area to Big Business practically demand change. One way or the other. (There isn’t much in the way of overt violence but it is very much implied.)

Steadfastly standing in the way of commerce and gentrification is Riley’s Café, the last bastion of decency in the area run by Mr Riley (duh) and a small staff of loyal hard working folk. In fact in an ironic twist the demolition and works threatening the business are the very reason that Riley’s Café is actually enjoying a boom in business. Mr and Mrs
Riley live in a run down apartment building nearby, and with Mrs Riley obviously suffering from old age dementia he is extremely reluctant to acquiesce to the will of Big Business, regardless of the money on offer.

Unfortunately as tends to happen in these David and Goliath battles there is no stand off between behemoth and the brave impediments to their dastardly plan. Over the years Goliaths have gotten a little smarter than standing in the open waiting for lucky stones, they hire other more willing types to carry out their egregious plans. And so Mr Riley
and crew meet an extremely dissatisfied customer one day who promptly lays waste to the décor and trashes everything of value. This act, when combined with the temptation of large ‘get out’ cheques, justifies to practically everyone in both the café’s staff and the apartment building that the writing is on the soon to be demolished walls. Almost overnight the Riley’s find themselves practically alone in the large building, with only a young pregnant woman, a recently jilted artist and a near mute ex-boxer who talks only in ad jingles for company.

Then – as the tagline says – One night Mrs Riley leaves the window open…

Through this open fenestra buzz a couple of high tech Frisbees, covered in flashing lights and full of the powers of fix-it.

Of course they put on a full demo for the delighted Mrs Riley, who informs the remaining stragglers the next day that the solution to all their dilemmas whirred through the window the previous evening. Equally obvious is the reaction from the others, all of whom are well aware that there is the distinct possibility that Mrs Riley is away with the fairies.

But this is a lighthearted film that is steadfastly PG, so if you think that these pie tins don’t show up quick smart and exhibit a lotta heart, ‘changing their lives forever’ you are nuts.

From here the film rarely strays from the beaten path, the quintet of holdouts all band together, and along with the collection of intergalactic nuts and bolts they start the improbable – but totally predictable – last stand to save everything they all hold dear.

* batteries not included isn’t especially funny, hardly action packed or crammed with plot twists, but it is *ahem* heartwarming in proportions that remain just the right side of twee and saccharine. Stephen Spielberg didn’t direct the film, but his paws are all over it, guaranteeing at least a base level of entertainment for even the most determinedly unemotional.

Final Rating – 6.5 / 10. It probably hasn’t dated all that well in the last couple of decades and kids will likely wonder why the flying dog dishes don’t suddenly turn into giant metal monsters, but * batteries not included remains family friendly and a decent Sunday arvo time filler.

About OGR

While I try to throw a joke or two into proceedings when I can all of the opinions presented in my reviews are genuine. I don't expect that all will agree with my thoughts at all times nor would it be any fun if you did, so don't be shy in telling me where you think I went wrong... and hopefully if you think I got it right for once. Don't be shy, half the fun is in the conversation after the movie.
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