|'provides a curious snapshot of the view of technology held by 1980s film-making'|
Released on a new Blu-ray, Short Circuit provides a curious snapshot of the view of technology held by 1980s film-making. Perhaps that is too much weight to give to a relatively small family film about a runaway talking robot, but the signs are all there; technology in Short Circuit has the power to destroy, to threaten worlds and make men redundant, if not dead, but it also has the power to save and to give live. It's a dichotomy that can be seen in many films of the time.
Of course, that, on the surface, is not the main aim of a film concerned in the most part with being an entertaining puff piece generating comedic situations for Steve Guttenberg to engage with Number 5 (voiced by Tim Blaney), love interest Stephanie (Ally Sheedy) and comedy sidekick Ben (Fisher Stevens). The well designed script makes Short Circuit a relatively budget-friendly operation - note just how few locations there are - whilst allowing it to feel more expansive and ideas-ridden than it actually is. Director John Badham does well to manage the whole thing in a fairly attractive way, although the film is too long and occasionally his mastery of comedic timing is anything but.
There are elements which show that Short Circuit at least tried to make itself stand out from the crowd on an artistic level, which are pleasant to spot. The proximity of nature to Number 5 seems to suggest that Badham was interested in exploring further the place for technology in a modern world. The early war games feature tanks trampling poppies in fields of green, whilst later Number 5 comes across a butterfly which he treats with the gentle touch of a considerate human before, less subtly, Sheedy is introduced as half animal lover, half crazy cat lady.
Ultimately, despite the signs that there were attempts to elevate Short Circuit higher than just a base family drama, it is a rather average piece of entertainment. It's not quite funny enough, the plot is very stock and the whole thing can't quite shake comparisons with E.T., released four years prior. The final scenes, shot on some really cheap-looking sets, don't help the film's argument, although for those who hold the nostalgia value of Badham's film in high regard, no argument will be required.
Short Circuit is released on UK Blu-ray on Monday 19th November 2012.