Monday, 30 March 2015

Short Circuit 2 (1988)




Back in the days when you didn't get too many sequels (imagine that) we actually got this surprising follow up. Most of the original cast are now long gone as we focus on Fisher Stevens Indian character as he tries to eek out an existence in the big city (NY) selling toys of Number 5. Before you can say Number 5 is al...Number 5 returns  for his next adventure, out of the sticks and into the Big Apple.

It would be very easy to assume this sequel would be a lazy cash grab, after all the big stars are gone and they have promoted the sidekick character of the first movie to lead role status. Well yes and no, yes this obviously came to ride the coattails of the original which means basically the same hijinks as before but set in a city environment. On the other hand they do expand on what came before and evolve Number 5's character pretty well, he now wears a red scarf you know. Now christened Johnny 5 (typical cool sounding 80's nickname), his metallic body has been modded and adorned with cool stickers and whatnot, he has more knowledge, he's a little more street smart and a little more human smart.

This time the plot revolves around Johnny 5 helping Fisher Stevens character build a small army of Johnny 5 toys to sell to this big company. They are doing this inside a warehouse which also just happens to be in use by some crooks trying to tunnel their way into the nearby bank. Of course one main angle of the story is once again seeing Johnny 5 interact with folk in the city, he's not suppose to get out of the warehouse for his own safety but naturally does and goes on an input rampage. Now even though I'm very sure many of you can guess the type of antics Johnny 5 gets up to, its still actually very amusing and entertaining. 5 goes up against stereotypical  80's street hustlers and beats them at their own game, he reads a gazillion books in the local book store, goes for a bit of hang gliding, goes to church, gets arrested, wears some human attire and helps out some stereotypical 80's street trash in pinching car stereos. A nice slice of easy going predictable hokem much in the same realm as Mick Dundee's adventures in Nu Yawk.

The whole sequence where 5 gets manipulated by the street gang sums up the whole theme of the plot really. Its all about poor little Number 5 getting taken for a ride, he's out of his depth and his innocent good nature is exploited by various slime-balls. The entire main plot is actually a twist on this notion as you discover towards the end, didn't see it coming gotta admit. This is where this sequel does improve on the original in my opinion, it takes 5 out of the relatively safe countryside and plops him in the concrete jungle, a deceptively dangerous environment for any outsider/foreigner. 5 isn't the young child he used to be but more of a brash teen, over confident, eager, hopeful and alas still very gullible, the city setting really brings out those emotions with great effect.

The most heart crushing moment of course being the sequence where Johnny 5 is beaten half to death by the bank robbers. Now this one scene is still easily one of the most heart wrenching moments in cinematic history, even E.T. has a tough time beating this. After 5 realises he has been tricked by a very close friend (throughout the whole film) he makes a run for it. The henchmen go after him, eventually catch him and attack 5 with iron crowbars smashing him to pieces before your eyes! Battery fluid sprays like blood, they rip his arm off, his caterpillar tracks are destroyed, metal debris goes flying and in the most shocking moment for any child...they batter 5's head destroying one eye completely. I think the agonising sound of Tim Blaney's (5's voice) cries for help in this sequence really make for an emotionally scarring scene. Johnny 5 pleads for them to stop as he is slowly destroyed, begging them not to disassemble him. What you see will ruin your day even now, hell it almost ruins the movie its so distressing! as a child it ended you're world.

Towards the finale things start to get a bit silly admittedly as the main bad guy goes on the run. Johnny 5 manages to repair himself with a little help but he's pissed and out for revenge, so to get that point across he tacks a load of extra metal junk onto himself giving a heavy metal punk orientated appearance complete with eye patch and DIY mohawk. We then get a sequence where 5 captures the henchmen who wrecked him and proceeds to give them a good beat down, well a goofy childish cartoonish beat down. We then get this quite farcical chase sequence between Johnny 5 and the main villain in a speed boat...oh yes. 5 manages to eventually catch up to the very fast speed boat (beats me) and captures the main villain in an impossibly hilarious way. All this accompanied to the tune of I Need a Hero by Bonnie Tyler I might add.

To top it all 5 even gets the C3PO treatment (errr copy much?) right at the end when he appears to have been fixed up in gold plated metal from top to bottom. This makes him look like a large trophy or a large piece of bling which would require sunglasses to look at, oh and he becomes an official US citizen too...hey who am I to judge huh.

Its all so chucklesome because Johnny 5 literately moves at a snails pace and speedy agility is not on the cards. In reality the bad guy would of gotten away by a good country mile and 5 would be trundling along like an OAP in a mobility scooter. But we overlook all that, all the obvious flaws, plot holes, impossibilities, unbelievable coincidences etc...after all this is still a movie for kids just like the first film. I do think this sequel is actually better than the first mainly because it offers more thrills and spills, more laughs and a much greater scope with clearly better production values. Sure its more preposterous and hokey with extra layers of good-natured schmaltz for good measure, despite missing Sheedy and Guttenberg, but you simply can't fail to love little Johnny 5 and his zest for life.

7/10