Short Circuit 2
Image // PG // $17.97 // April 19, 2011
Review by Adam Tyner | posted April 7, 2011
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Graphical Version
...and then Steve Guttenberg, Ally Sheedy, and their robot buddy Number Five moved to a sleepy little cabin in Montana, and they all lived happily ever after! Oh. Wait. Ben Jabituya -- y'know, Fisher Stevens in blackbrownface -- didn't score that same flavor of fairy tale ending. At least if you consider a shack in Montana to qualify as a fairy tale, which I obviously do. Anyway, that broken English roboticist is living out of his van, peddling pint-sized Number Five knockoffs for $19.95 a pop on the street corner in some nameless Big City. A skeevy hustler by the name of Fred (Michael McKean) negotiates a merchandising deal with the super-cute rep (Cynthia Gibb) from a ritzy department store. Deliver a thousand 'bots in time for Christmas, and they'll be cut a check for five big ones! "Big ones" are ten grand, right? Five of those, whatever that's called. The only hiccup is that Ben's been cranking these out in his van by hand. How are they going to churn out a thousand that quickly? 'Sokay. Fred bribes a bunch of winos to work as an assembly line, and they all set up shop in an abandoned building that's lined up for demolition. Turns out a couple of badniks had already set up shop in their factory, though, tunnelling their way to the bank across the street for a jewel heist. Oh no! The thieves smash all their equipment and scare off the staff. The only thing Ben and Fred have left is a care package from Montana -- oh boy, it's Number Johnny Five! With the help of a bleeding-edge robot, it'll be a cinch to get all these toys put together in time! All they have to do is make sure Johnny doesn't clue in that he's in a big city...otherwise, he'll get distracted by all that ::gulp!:: INPUT and tear off! Oh, and then there are those jewel thieves who have their own plans for Number Five and please can I stop now?

"You will not get away! I am really pissed off!"
::makes Tarzan yell::
"Me Johnny! You busted!"

Oh, and another time, Johnny's tooling around the city, taking in the sights, and he sees a couple of punks...with mohawks! He doesn't know what those are! He thinks they're "human porcupines"! And then there's that time when Johnny's hang-gliding and says "I wish I were a bird -- the Chrome-Breasted Input Eater!" And then he says "Don't worry -- my cousin was a Harley Davidson!" when Fred has to ride him like a motorcycle. Get it? Because he's a machine and motorcycles are also machines. And then there's the time when Number Five sings "R-E-S-P-E-C-T" like Aretha Franklin and he's sad because even though he's alive, everyone still treats him like a scary machine that doesn't deserve any R-E-S-P-E-C-T. And then there's that other time when the mini-Number Fives dance to "Heard It Through the Grapevine" because this is a movie from 1988 and the California Raisins were still a thing. And then there's that other other time when a rescue hinges on deciphering oldie radio songs played on a telephone-calculator-thingie. Fisher Stevens is rehashing the same thank-you-come-again schtick from the first movie, setting up super-clever gags like "We are manufacturing them like gangbangers." "Gangbusters?" Since Steve Guttenberg opted to sit this one out entirely and Ally Sheedy literally phones in her part, that opens things up for Fisher Stevens to play the romantic lead. The only thing is that Ben is too shy to know what to say to Sandy, so Number Five plays Cyrano by sending him messages on a street sign...but then a cat sits on his head and Number Five starts beaming out lines from laxative commercials!!!!

So, I guess what I'm getting at is that Short Circuit 2 really isn't much of a comedy. I know! Caught me off-guard too. If I were five or six, I'd love it, and...I guess that's the target audience? The humor doesn't really aim any higher than "bad men fall down go boom", "cute robot quotes things from commercials and movies and stuff", and "how many fish-out-of-water clichés can we cram in here?". I'd think even most kids would cringe at its kind of indefensible 111 minute runtime, though. Why this clocks in right at two hours, I have no idea. ...and even though so much of Short Circuit 2 is very clearly a kids' movie, Number Five gets beaten so savagely at one point that it'll probably leave most of the junior set mortified and sobbing. I fished Short Circuit 2 out of the stack of stuff to review since I kind of half-remembered liking it when I was younger, and I figured it'd be a nostalgic blast. No. I was wrong. Learn from my mistake. Lethargic. Laughless. Skip It.

Ack. Even though Short Circuit 2 played like a champ in the couple of set-top players I tried, I couldn't get this Blu-ray disc to spin in the BD-ROM drive in my computer, so I can't snap any screenshots for you wonderful people out there. That's a drag too because, believe it or not, Short Circuit 2 is worth showing off.

Image's Blu-ray release of the first Short Circuit was a bargain bin title and looked the part: aging master, interlaced, and all that fun stuff. The sequel looks kind of...incredible? There's no trace whatsoever of any speckling or wear. The 1080p video is impressively crisp and detailed throughout. There's no monkeying around with excessive noise reduction or edge enhancement, and I couldn't spot any hiccups at all in the AVC encode. It's just really natural and filmic. The production design and cinematography do get in the way a bit, though. The palette is kind of drab and overcast, but that's clearly just the way the movie was shot. Colors do pop whenever they have a chance, such as that bright red top that Cynthia Gibb's rocking at the beginning. Honestly, this high-def presentation completely eclipses whatever it was I waltzed in expecting to see, and I really can't imagine Short Circuit 2 ever looking any better than this.

Short Circuit 2 is dished out on a single layer disc and is very lightly letterboxed to preserve its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1.

...aaaaand it sounds kind of unreal too. The PCM stereo audio on Short Circuit 2 is astonishingly clean and clear, as if I'm in some massively luxurious recording studio with the master tapes right in front of me or something. The score is rendered flawlessly, standing out as the best thing about the audio even with as strong as everything else is. All the sound effects are rich and full-bodied too, and the dialogue really doesn't show its age all that much. No hiss, pops, or crackles ever once intrude. Seriously, there were several times where I found myself staring at my home theater in disbelief, wondering how Short Circuit 2, of all movies, could sound this incredible and what every other catalog title's excuse must be for not matching up. This is absolutely a first-rate effort.

No remixes or dubs this time around. Subtitles are served up in English (SDH) and Spanish if you need 'em, though.

Nothing. The DVD from a decade back had a three-minute promotional featurette, but that didn't find its way to this shiny new Blu-ray disc.

The Final Word
I've gotta admit to being impressed by how spectacular Short Circuit 2 looks and sounds on Blu-ray. It's priced like a budget title -- going for all of $8.99 at Best Buy at one point! -- but you wouldn't know that to look at it. It's just too bad the movie's borderline-unwatchable. This Blu-ray disc might be worth Netflixing or fishing out of the bargain bin if you want to carve out a slice of nostalgia, but otherwise...? Skip It.

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