— by CAM SMITH —
Sad as it may sound, John Badham’s 1986 sci-fi comedy “Short Circuit” was a childhood favorite of mine.
It was one of the few “E.T.” clones to find in its own distinctive voice and heart, with solidly likable performances from Steve Guttenberg, Ally Sheedy and Fisher Stevens, as well as the invaluable and ingeniously designed-and-operated Johnny 5 robot — a wonderfully endearing and amusing bulky construct which truly felt, well, alive.
While the sequel petered out quickly, a weak rehash with a tad too much intense violence — watching Michael McKean horrifically pummel Johnny 5 to death with a lead pipe forever changed me as a person — I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for that wacky bucket of bolts.
So, how overjoyed I was to read — via Variety — that Dimension pictures has finally gotten the long-gestating remake on track and placed it into the clumsy hands of director Steve Carr.
Now, let’s take a second, shall we, to examine the illustrious filmography of Mr. Carr: “Next Friday,” “Dr. Dolittle 2,” “Daddy Day Care,” “Rebound,” “Are We Done Yet?” and, last but not least, this year’s surprise hit “Paul Blart: Mall Cop.” If examining that resume didn’t turn your hair white, I commend your superhuman resilience.
Apparently the story behind “Circuit” 2.0, which is scripted by “Robot Chicken” staff writer Dan Milano, will have the zany experimental military war-bot — who achieves consciousness after a freak incident during a lightning storm — befriending a troubled young boy and his fractured family, with hijinx and calculated moments of syrupy, warm-hearted sentiment to follow, no doubt. Oy.
Haven’t we seen enough on-screen relationships between little boys and lovable, fantastic creatures by now? I’m not arguing that the movie need revisit the first film’s robot/lonely 20-something woman bond, but why not try for something a tad less generic and condescending? How about switching it up and making a young girl the central protagonist for a change?
Maybe I’m just falling victim to rose-colored glasses-tinted nostalgia, but the studio could stand to gain a great deal by making this “Circuit” stand outside of the motley pack of cash-grab kid-flicks.
There’s a fun premise here which could allow for a really winning family entertainment — not to mention boffo merchandising opportunities! Ka-ching! — if handled with care and a modicum of thought. Unfortunately, the hiring of Carr doesn’t lend much indication that this will be the case.
I just hope that, when Johnny 5 comes to life once more in 2011, there’s a soul beneath all the gears, metal and wire.
Follow Cam Smith on Twitter at http://twitter.com/camspcepisodes.