September 19, 2005

Short Circuit (1986)
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

99 mins. · PG
Letterboxed · 2.35:1

Format
UMD

Audio
English - 2.0

Subtitles
None

Extras
None

Starring
Ally Sheedy, Steve Guttenberg

Review by
John Carpenter


Rating



(1986)

I remember visiting Johnny 5 in the theater. "Short Circuit" had great family appeal with a lovable robot and goofy humor. I wandered if this would be one of those movies that didn't hold up well after 19 years. We have all revisited movies we loved as a kid to find out they aren't quite the same as adults. I remembered "Short Circuit" being funny, with numerous quotes and a catchy song. With the movie now released on PSP, I have been whisked back to my childhood. Hopefully the visit will be as fun as the memory.

After being struck by lightning, robot Number 5 was charged with a new program. Rather than perform tasks for the military like the four robots around him, Number 5 used his newfound free thought to venture out into the world and explore. The military sees the robot as a threat to the community and they are prepared to take any means necessary to get their $11 million project back. Stephanie Speck, played by Ally Sheedy, has seen the humanistic side of Number 5 and leads a fight for his freedom.

"Short Circuit" starts out quite dark. What was marketed as a comedy with family appeal, shows robots used as weapons for the military during simulated warfare. It is when Number 5 is struck by lightning that the movie gets a charge of humor. Playing out as a poor man's "E.T.", "Short Circuit" is just different enough to be enjoyable. The inclusion of 80's icons Steve Guttenberg and Ally Sheedy give the movie a little bit of a campy feel. Both actors had their biggest hits behind them and overact a little in the movie. I commend their devotion to "Short Circuit" even if the acting does feel a bit forced at times. It was also funny seeing Guttenberg and G.W. Bailey onscreen together again. If the duo was trying to shake their "Police Academy" label, appearing together as adversaries in a comedy again didn't really help.

I really did enjoy "Short Circuit". It has an innocence that translates well to all ages. It is one of those feel good movies that captures the imagination with a twist on the buddy formula. The film is a melting pot of movies like "Star Wars", "E.T.", and "War Games". It borrows from the successful elements of these three movies and tries to piece together a marketable film. The appeal of Number 5 is what spurs the movie along though. He is a robot with the curiosity of a five year old. We see characters look beyond the metallic exterior and view Number 5 as a unique individual, rather than a programmed machine. Though it may not be picked up by the young ones who watch the movie, the positive message of accepting those who are different is one that all ages can benefit from hearing.

Released in 1986, "Short Circuit" is one of the older titles to be released on UMD. I never picked up the DVD, so I was very pleased to see such a great presentation. The 2.35:1 original aspect ratio is used for the UMD, keeping the entire film intact. The quality of the movie is excellent, but it does have some minor issues. Colors are a little soft and certain shots show their age by looking faded. There are no flaws from the print used and the detail level is outstanding. An odd note regarding the UMD is the way the movie is loaded. It starts out set back with black bars on all sides of the film. If you use the PSP to zoom in, the side bars will be taken away and the 2.35:1 ratio is captured on a lager scale. I am not sure why this UMD had this issue, but it is one that can be easily resolved.

Audio is very tame for "Short Circuit". I watched a lot of this movie in a waiting room, so there was chatter and children running around me. When I listened with the earbuds, the sound was nice. It wasn't as aggressive as other UMD tracks I have heard, but despite the numerous conversations going on around me, I was able to concentrate well on the movie. Explosions didn't have the depth of newer titles released on UMD, but dialogue and music were at a decent level. I tried watching the movie with the faceplate speakers a little later and had a very rough time. Even though the noise around me was minimal, it was difficult to hear the dialogue from the film. Where the earbuds gave me the options to be aware of what was going on around me while I watched the movie, the faceplate speakers were drowned out by almost any noise around me. Adjusting the volume and audio level on the PSP did little to resolve the issue. The i.Sound speakers worked well when I got a chance to use them by amplifying the sound a bit more.

There are no extras on the disc. The main menu is very rudimentary, with no options other than to play the movie. Basic menu options like "Chapter Stops" or "Audio Options" are not available, but there are 20 chapter stops used in "Short Circuit".

I was very concerned that "Short Circuit" was past its prime. Fortunately, age has been kind to the movie as it still manages to capture your attention and gain recognition with a new generation. The UMD is not to blame for the minor visual issues. Soft colors are offset by great detail. The audio level is a bit low, so find a relatively quiet place to watch the movie, or you may sacrifice some of the dialogue. Considering its 20th anniversary is right around the corner, Johnny 5 is alive and well on the PSP.

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