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Short Circuit (Blu-ray)

Number 5 is alive once more

Disc Specs

Starring Steve GuttenbergAlly SheedyFisher Stevens Disc Cover
Directed By John Badham Certificate PG
Audio DTS HD Master Audio 5.1
Visuals 2.35:1 Widescreen
Running Time 99 mins
UK Release Date November 19, 2012
Genre Comedy, Sci-fi, Family
Our Rating
User Rating


It's always risky revisiting the films you loved as a child. Many 80s kids classics like ET, The Goonies and The Neverending Story still hold up and while they're obviously not as entertaining to watch as a cynical adult as they were as a child, they can still be appreciated as well-made movies, as well as nostalgic fun. Unfortunately there are also those that haven't stood the test of time and watching these as an adult makes you wonder if you had lower standards as a child or were just easily impressed. Short Circuit is one of the latter.

Speaking personally, I loved this film as a child. I remember it as kind of a funnier, less emotional version of ET. Because while ET is obviously a lovely little fellow, I always found him kind of boring; especially the way he kept telling Elliot to "be good”, surely kids hear that enough from adults? Johnny 5, the robotic star of Short Circuit, was much more rock and roll, he had inbuilt lasers, was always breaking stuff and liked to dance to god-awful 80s love ballads. I was one of probably millions of children in the late 80s/early 90s who was constantly shouting "Number 5 is alive!” in the playground.

So it's kind of heartbreaking to revisit the film and realise it's not really very good and that Johnny 5 himself is extremely irritating. It stars inexplicably huge 80s actor Steve Guttenberg as robotics genius Newton Crosby who, in a morally bankrupt move reflective of Reagan's America, creates five deadly war robots for sinister arms company Nova. When Number 5 is struck by lightning he suddenly develops self-awareness and what might be described as a personality and goes on the run. He ends up hiding out with the animal-obsessed Stephanie Speck (Ally Sheedy) who is also a lot more annoying than I remember. They're pursued by Nova's security chief Skroeder, played by G.W Bailey shamelessly recycling his performance as Lieutenant Thaddeus Harris in the Police Academy films.

Short Circuit is directed with minimal frills or thrills by John Badham (who squeezes in references to his own Saturday Night Fever as Number 5 learns to dance by watching John Travolta) and it all just feels very flat and empty compared to genuine classics of the era, like the aforementioned ET and Back to the Future. The most obviously dated part of the film is the outrageously un-PC performance by the Caucasian Fisher Stevens as Guttenberg's Indian assistant Ben. With his dodgy make-up and "hilariously” accented broken English, it feels like an act that belongs in a Carry On film and it's surprising that that kind of thing was still acceptable in 1986.

That aside it's difficult to imagine that cynical and tech-savvy children today will find much enjoyment here apart from laughing at how hilariously old fashioned the supposedly cutting-edge robots look – in the 1980s technology was proudly big and chunky. The fact that Number 5 looks a bit like Wall-E doesn't help either, because that's a film and a robotic character with genuine heart and soul. In comparison poor old Johnny 5 comes across like an attention seeking kid who's had too many sweets and when he gets switched off for a while halfway through the movie it's kind of a relief.

Extras wise this is a pretty decent package although all the featurettes are vintage ones produced to tie-in with the film's release so we don't get to see what the cast make of the film today. We do however get a commentary from John Badham where he seems to be as enthusiastic about the project as he was in the 80s.

Overall Verdict: If you were a fan of Short Circuit as a child it's probably best to keep it as a fond memory rather than revisiting it and realising that it hasn't aged well. Although at times it does feel charmingly old-fashioned, more often it just feels sadly dated and it won't be as much fun as you remember.

Special Features:
Commentary by director John Badham and writers S.S. Wilson and Brent Maddock.
Original theatrical trailer
‘The Creation of Number 5'
Cast and crew interviews
Behind the scenes featurette

Reviewer: Adam Pidgeon

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