Awfully Good: Short Circuit 2

I wonder if CHAPPiE is programmed to recognize copyright infringement?

Short Circuit 2 (1988)

Director: Kenneth Johnson
Stars: Fisher Stevens, Michael McKean, Cynthia Gibb


Johnny 5 takes Manhattan. 

Truly traumatic memories never fade, especially if you experience them when you're young. I remembered very little about the plot, characters or quality of the SHORT CIRCUIT series, but the visual of friendly robot Johnny 5 getting violently, graphically beaten to death as he cries for help has been seared in to my brain my entire life. 

WALL*E was arrested once the authorities discovered he took Eve on all those "dates" while she was unconscious. 

But that's not the reason SHORT CIRCUIT 2 belongs in this column. Sure, it sucks and is a terrible follow-up to the original already-cheesy movie, but it's a goofy, enjoyable suck. The first film was about a robot getting struck by lightning and acquiring a soul and intelligence to learn about humanity and mortality. In the sequel, it uses this newfound knowledge to fashion a mohawk and take down a group of diamond thieves. Plus, this was directed by the guy who made STEEL with Shaquille O'Neal. 

Michael McKean got his 80s franchises mixed up and thought he had signed on to MANNEQUIN 2.

The sequel is sadly missing original cast members Steve Guttenberg and Ally Sheedy, but don't worry—Fisher Stevens' mind-boggling racist character Ben Jahveri is back! In case you don't remember, Stevens donned brownface for the role and spoke in a stereotypical Indian accent and continually butchered the English language for the sake of comedy. (He says "like gangbangers" instead of "like gangbusters!" Oh Ben, you foreign rascal...) If this happened today, I can't even imagine the shitstorm the media would have over it. 

Johnny 5's outlook on life may have been childlike, but his love was 100% adult. 

Anyways, after the events of the first film, Ben Jahveri has used his great success as the world's foremost robotics engineer to move to New York City and... sell miniature Johnny 5 toys on the street. He hooks up with Michael McKean's street hustler Fred and the pair make a deal to build 1,000 robots in time for Christmas. This proves to be an impossible task when the homeless people they hire to put together the complicated machines work too slowly. Also, Ben and Fred unwittingly are sharing their warehouse with a pair of thieves planning an epic diamond heist. Wanting to be left alone, the criminals scare away Ben's destitute employees. Who will make the toys now? Enter Johnny 5 to save the day!

"Are you sure this is how I'm supposed to change your oil?" 

Unfortunately, there's no second act to this movie. The film knows that Johnny and Friends will have to face off against the robbers in the end, but it has no idea what to do until then. So the screenwriters comes up with a slew of tangential subplots and random misadventures to waste as much time as possible. Here are a few examples:

  • Johnny 5 accidentally joins a Latin street gang and helps them steal thousands of dollars worth of car stereos. Then the robot gets a graffiti makeover and starts reciting the gang's amazing motto: "Los Locos kick your ass! Los Locos kick your face! Los Locos kick your balls in to outer space!"

  • Fred tries to sell Johnny to a tech company for millions of dollars. In order to escape, the robot jumps out of a skyscraper. Luckily, he just so happens to have a full-size hang glider stored within his body and goes on a magnificent flying adventure through the NYC skyline.

  • The robbers continue trying to break in to their warehouse, but Johnny 5 keeps thwarting them either by physical altercations or via homemade booby traps ala HOME ALONE.

  • Johnny gets arrested on the street because the cop think he's a man in a suit. They open up his trench coat (yes, the robot wears clothes) and yell at the human to get out.

Michael McKean is holding a frozen duck. YOUR ARGUMENT IS INVALID.

  • Johnny has an existential crisis and visits a church where he goes to confession.  The priest is nice to him, until he learns he's a robot at which point he yells at him and kicks him out. Apparently God hates robots. 

  • Despite having artificial intelligence and emotions, the robot teaches the humans how to love. There is a Cyrano de Bergerac scene where Johnny 5 hijacks a Times Square billboard to help Ben woo a girl by giving him non-sequitur pick up lines. ("My mother... sleeps... with your dog?")

  • Ben and Fred get locked in a freezer and are rescued in the most ludicrous way possible: calling a girl and using the touch tones on the phone to play pop songs that give her clues to their location. Actually "clues" isn't correct. They give her turn-by-turn directions from her house (i.e. turn left "On Broadway," head "Downtown," make a right at "the Dock of the Bay.") Luckily, the Chinese restaurant they're in just happens to be named Doo Wah (diddy).
Each of the above time fillers gets a few minutes of screentime max and most of them are never resolved or mentioned again.


However, the final act is really where SHORT CIRCUIT 2 leaves its mark. After Johnny 5 accidentally helps the thieves steal their diamonds (the second time he's been an accomplice to felony larceny, by the way), they decide they need to do away with the evidence. This leads to the aforementioned murder scenes where they attempt to kill our beloved robot hero in the most gruesome fashion possible. One guy uses an axe to hack away at his circuitry. Another rips him apart component-by-component using a crowbar. The entire time Johnny is screaming for his life in his robot voice while blood-like oil splatters everywhere. The only reason he manages to escape death is by taking control of a nearby model airplane and flying it directly in to the anal cavity of one of the robbers. No, seriously:

Hamster Kamikazes: Not as effective.

And just when you think the suffering is over and Johnny has finally died and is at peace, the unkillable robot begins to slowly, painfully try to get help—one eye ripped out, broken treadmill legs sputtering, carrying his own arm, sparks flying from his body and red battery fluid leaking from his battery heart. When Fred finally finds him, Johnny can only use a rock to scrawl out the words "DYING." Luckily, he collapsed right next to a Radio Shack, which is like the Mayo Clinic for robots. Now Johnny experiences a different human concept—vengeance. The robot rebuilds himself into Travis Bickle from TAXI DRIVER and goes on rampage to track down the men responsible. His hatred is so strong he ignores his low battery warnings and literally revenges himself to death. 

Best ending freeze frame ever.

Of course, since SHORT CIRCUIT 3 was planned at the time, the movie has a happier ending. Ben manages to be the first person in the world to defibrillate a robot and Johnny gets a shiny new gold-plated body and becomes the first robotic citizen of the United States, with the same rights and privileges as his human counterparts. America!

Some of Johnny 5's most memorable speech outputs. 

Johnny 5 gets in to a fight, goes hang gliding and is nearly murdered. 

Even the robot wears clothes in this movie. 

Need input? Buy this movie here!

Take a shot or drink every time:
  • Johnny inputs something or says "Input!"
  • Johnny makes a pop cultures reference
  • Johnny commits a crime 
  • Ben gets an American expression wrong because he's hilariously foreign
  • There's obvious product placement
  • "Holding Out for a Hero" by Bonnie Tyler plays
Double shot if:
  • A plane enters a man's butt


Seen a movie that should be featured on this column? Shoot Jason an email or follow him on Twitter and give him an excuse to drink.

Source: JoBlo.com



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