Short CircuitPG ¦ Blu-ray
The eighties was one of the most exciting decades for films; Raiders of the Lost Ark, E.T, Back to the Future as well as the final two Star Wars episodes from the original trilogy were all released in what can be truly described as a golden period in cinema.
There were many other films that were released at the time that, due to the incredibly high standards reached by the titles above, couldn't be seen on quite the same level. Some of them however, have stood the test of time remarkably well, and have scrubbed up nicely for the digital age. Short Circuit is the perfect example.
Beavering away in a remote locale in Colorado are a bunch of scientists creating a small army of robots for military use; leading the way are Newton Crosby (Steve Guttenberg) and Ben Jabituya (Fisher Stevens).
But when one of their robots – Number 5 (voiced by Tim Blaney) – gets struck by lightning, he begins to start thinking for himself, so much so that he runs away from the military facility.
He ends up at the home of animal-loving Stephanie (Alley Sheedy), who initially believes that he is from out of space. After spending time with him, she realises he's a very special robot, one who the military will stop at nothing to get hold of once again.
A lot has happened in the twenty-six years since the film's release. Most notably, the waning of careers for both Guttenberg and Sheedy, and slightly more surprising that of director John Badham, who also directed the seminal Saturday Night Fever and War Games. Badham hasn't directed a feature since 2002 (Brother's Keeper), and has pretty much spent the last ten years directing the odd mediocre US TV show. And Guttenberg and Sheedy have resorted to appearing in completely forgettable titles. How times change.
Despite the human input, the real star of this film is undoubtedly Number 5. All these years on, he still looks a more than credible robot, with most of the film's budget going into physically making him. Today of course, he would be a CGI tour de force, but for 1896, he was, and still is, an impressive bit of kit.
And although Number 5 is the main draw of the film, it's surprising to see that the script still holds up. As well as being warm and charming throughout, it also doesn't panda to a younger audience. The comedy is extremely broad in places, much of it coming from the non ethnic Stevens playing Indian immigrant Ben; yes it's a little bit wrong, but his role is deliciously entertaining.
Films linked to your childhood, more often than not, are remembered fondly, the same way that certain sweets, shows etc are. The problem is, when you're faced with them as an adult, they very rarely live up to the memories. Short Circuit is one of those rare exceptions, in that it's actually a far better film that originally thought.
Badham directed a fast-paced adventure romp, with a thoroughly loveable hero, that can be watched and enjoyed by children and adults alike. In fact it's quite a rarity in that sense; now more than ever, the family film is a thing of the past. Today, films are marketed to death, and films for the younger market (with the exception of perhaps of the likes of Pixar films) are just too cutesy and saccharine to be enjoyed by adults as well.
Short Circuit could then be considered one of the last of a dying breed, which is a real shame. But thanks to the digital age and Blu-ray, Johnny Five is still very much alive and well.