Number Five is Alive!

Mar 21, 2007
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Good for kids, a few good moments for adults...

Cons:... too sugary, annoying voice for robot!

The Bottom Line: Short Circuit is a good movie for younger kids and not too painful for adults (if they're in the right mood!)


Director John Badham re-explores some of the themes that his earlier hit Wargames contained in Short Circuit, a lightweight but enjoyable comedy thriller about a robot. I seem to have been through a spate of watching John Badham films recently, for no known reason, but there you go. We’re not talking about just any robot, by the way; this one – no.5 of a batch of 5 – is a military robot that, after a freak accident, becomes sentient (doesn’t that just always happen when there’s a power surge at breakfast and you end up with a talky toaster?!?). However, gaining self-awareness doesn’t mean that Number Five actually knows what to do with it… so off it goes on a journey to find out. (Number Five has a male voice, more or less, so now that we’ve established that it’s gained self-awareness, it’ll be referred to henceforth as “he”.)

The military of course are deeply interested in getting Number Five back, though Skroeder (G W Bailey) seems more intent on blowing it up. The robot’s creator Newton Crosby (Steve Guttenberg) goes after him but is going to take rather a lot of convincing that Number Five is anything more than a normal machine with a malfunction. Stephanie Speck (Ally Sheedy) may need less convincing as she’s a bit strange (but very nice with it), but her ex-boyfriend may not care. Crosby is aided by friend, colleague, and general weirdo Ben Jabituya (Fisher Stevens, sporting the most outrageously over the top Indian accent I’ve ever heard - and that includes Michael Bates in “It Ain’t Half Hot Mum”!), and they set out to retrieve Number Five. However, that might not be quite as easy as they thought… With the military breathing down their necks too, time is of the essence and Newton must remember how to interact with girls after five years of being cooped up in a lab with robots for company…

Aside from the fact that I sincerely hope Fisher Stephen’s accent was deliberately absurd and not a genuine attempt to sound authentically Indian, there’s quite a lot to like in this movie. Stephen does get most of the best lines in this film, and perhaps they’re funny partly because his voice sounds so ridiculous. Guttenberg is reliable as the charming but confused scientist, and it’s the sort of role he could do in his sleep, he’s done it so often. I did find Stephanie’s character quite hopelessly too stupid in some scenes, but Sheedy is a very watchable actress and does get a few laughs, particularly when she first meets Number Five. G W Bailey plays the character he plays in every film I’ve ever seen him in – a tetchy, somewhat idiotic military man (or security guard in Mannequin, but the character was largely the same), and also gets a few laughs though maybe not as many as he could have. There were few other actors who really stood out here, it wasn’t really a film that lent itself to career-making performances!

Personally I would have liked more comedy and less sugary sentiment in the film, and it’s definitely one that is aimed squarely at younger children. An example of this is the irritating robot voice (yet again!! Why oh why must robots or computers in these films always have annoying voices?!?) – voiced on this occasion by ~Tim Blaney – and the over-use of slapstick comedy. There were still quite a few amusing or touching moments in the film, so I’d still recommend seeing it, but you do have to be in the mood for it. The special effects are quite impressive in that they don’t look terrible today, and some of the scenes with the robot are quite fun. I think virtually every adult who watches this will work out the twist ending in about… oh… five seconds. Maybe the young kiddies will still be on the edge of their seats though. They’ll certainly enjoy it more than you will as well, though some of the humour in the dialogue will be lost on them.


Other Information

Year of release: 1986 (3 years after Wargames)
Runtime: 98 minutes
Rating: PG

Quotes


Ben Jabituya: I am thinking she is a virgin. Or at least she used to be.

-----------

Newton Crosby: Where are you from, anyway?
Ben Jabituya: Bakersfield, originally.
Newton Crosby: No, I mean your ancestors.
Ben Jabituya: Oh, them. Pittsburgh.

-----------

Ben Jabituya: With excitement like this, who is needing enemas?

-----------

Ben Jabituya: I am standing here beside myself.

-----------

Duke: Will he kill me if I stop?
Ben Jabituya: Who is to say?
Duke: Will he kill me if I don't stop?
Ben Jabituya: Again I am shrugging.
Duke: I'm stopping.
Ben Jabituya: Good choice.

-----------

Howard Marner: I thought they were called Choppers.
Skroeder: Well now we call them Huey's.
Howard Marner: Well, why wasn't I notified?

-----------

Benjamin Jabituya: Who is knowing how to read the mind of a robot?

-----------

Frank: How, robot. Me - friend.
Stephanie Speck: Talk computer, not Apache.

-----------


Related Links

Also directed by John Badham: Bird on a Wire, WarGames (which also starred Ally Sheedy). Though the themes of ground-breaking technology and an anti-war message featured in both WarGames and Short Circuit, I much prefer WarGames of the two.

G W Bailey was also in Mannequin

Steve Guttenberg also starred in Three Men and a Baby

If you liked Short Circuit, my guess is that you would also enjoy Flight of the Navigator - complete with annoying computer voice! :-D


See also: Top Ten Children's Movies


Recommend this product?

Read all comments (4)

Share this product review with your friends   
Share This!