It can be a dangerous business, you know, re-visiting old films from your childhood. You go back after a couple of decades and realise the years have clouded your memory with a rosy fog which fails to protect your old favourites from even the most perfunctory scrutiny. After all this time it turns out that Mac and Me isn’t the charming intergalactic romp that you remember, it’s a cynical and deceitful ploy to get you to buy lots of sweets and fizzy pop, who’d have thought? And Prehysteria! is less an anarchic, Jurassic Park-style precursor to Small Soldiers, and more a crushingly dull waste of space, made all the more offensive by the heinous sight of Austin O’ Brien’s silly, floppy hair.
Believe me when I say I was not looking forward to sitting down and picking apart Short Circuit, an old favourite of mine which makes its Blu-ray debut next week. In the cold light of day, with the benefit of hindsight and the gift cynicism, obviously the preposterous hijinks of talkative automaton, Number Five fall to pieces like a cheaply made yo-yo, right?
Well you can thank your lucky stars that even with a newly acquired, Transformers- inspired hatred of all things even remotely robotic, I enjoyed it, it still holds together. Short Circuit is fine, it’s absolutely fine.
If you’re returning to this one after an absence of a couple of decades, you may struck by just how surprisingly thoughtful it is. Chances are, this will be the first time you noticed this mechanised interpretation of Pinocchio’s heart, it’s pro-nature, pro-environment message of peace, and it’s treatise on humanity and the importance of free-will.
You may have noticed those things, but what’s more important is that you noticed the comedy robot getting up to all sorts of mischief. Number Five, the state of the art military drone who gets struck by lightning and develops the gift of artificial intelligence, drives a car with surprising skill, he tries to cook breakfast, he hops about like a grasshopper, and he reads books really, really fast. And it’s all still pretty amusing.
Steve Guttenberg and Ally Sheedy’s slightly improbable, budding romance doesn’t add a great deal to the proceedings, and Fisher Stevens’ “amusing” Indian accents feels worryingly heavy-handed; but let’s face it, this is all window-dressing, a sideshow compared to the main attraction: Number Five, and It’s immensely hard not to be charmed by the antics of the precocious little scamp.
Twenty and thirty year olds looking to relive past glories, will find Number Five alive (no pun intended) and well, and still tickling the funny-bone. New viewers will discover an occasionally-smart comedy that extols the praises of a peaceful and harmonious planet via a goofy robot who does a tolerable John Wayne impression.
If you say the sight of a five foot high robot falling off a bridge and parachuting into the back of a moving van isn’t entertaining, then I say you are a liar.