There’s something about the practical effects of Johnny 5. That robot grabbed America to the tune of $40 million back in 1986, and it’s not hard to see why. He’s an admirable creation, and perfectly believable. The movie may have aged, but Johnny 5 is timeless.
Short Circuit wastes no time in getting the audience up to speed so the robot can take over. He’s the star here, despite being on-screen with Ally Sheedy and Steve Guttenberg. Voiced by, of all people, the puppet operator, Johnny is brilliantly handled on-screen. He moves, jumps, and performs all of his required tasks through a variety of visual effect techniques.
Without a decent story, the robot is useless. Thankfully, there’s just enough here to get by. Johnny is your typical government creation that escaped from a lab, and the military (along with his creator) are after them. Sheedy is superb in her role, interacting with Johnny as naturally as one could. Guttenberg is fine as well, having a blast as the overly enthusiastic robotics expert. G.W. Bailey has a chance to let loose as the military lead, milking the role for all it’s worth.
As a comedy, Short Circuit works all too well. The number of quotable one-liners (“Hey, laser lips…”) is high, and there are number of sight gags as well. Short Circuit runs the comedic gamut and comes out better for it.
While not an ‘80s classic, and it hasn’t aged as well as some of its brethren (say, Ghostbusters), this is still a worthy effort. Overly sensitive parents should be warned that the PG rating is stretched, although the language hits at exactly the right moments. Short Circuit is successful, harmless fun.
Time hasn’t been kind to the film, and neither has the studio with a 1080i effort. This Blu-ray is only a tad better than DVD, mostly due to the lack of compression. There are some scenes of noticeable sharpness, and colors remain strong throughout. Black levels fade regularly, dirt can be excessive, and low levels of detail are present throughout. No edge enhancement is seen, although the grain clean-up does leave some artifacting.
Long before the advent of 5.1, there was stereo. For the most part, that’s what this DTS-HD mix provides. The stereo channels are used well for positional audio in the fronts. Brief moments of surround use can be found, though they’re typically minor and not worth mentioning. Fidelity is low, and some dialogue can be difficult to hear. The total lack of bass leaves the mix sounding flat and faded.
Two featurettes total around nine minutes, both of which were done for the movie’s release. The behind-the-scenes feature is literally raw footage from the set. Creation of Number 5 is a small look at how the robot was crafted, though not how it was operated. A commentary with director John Badham and his two writers can flesh out more details. A collection of five cast interviews are barely worth your time, and an isolated score/effects audio track is here too.