The year was 1986. Movie Robots were proving to be a very popular trend. R2D2 and C3PO were 3 years into their retirement and The Terminator was….not for the kids. Movie goers wanted a new family friendly robo buddy and Number Five was it.
With 80’s staples like Ally Sheedy and Steve Guttenberg in starring roles, Director John Badham had ensured that the movies humorous tone would be handled perfectly.
The premise for the movie was simple: Experimental Military Robot gets struck by lightning and becomes a sentient being with all the feels and a desperate “need for input”. Can he survive in the real world with Nova Robotics hot on his trail to destroy him?
There’s much to love about this film. In the mid 80’s Number Five was an impressive technical achievement and they managed to make him look adorable too. Though his movements were sometimes clunky, it never detracted from the blood, sweat and tears it would have taken to get this little bugger up and rolling. Tim Blaney gives Number Five his voice with a childlike sense of wonder and innocence that works perfectly. S.S. Wilson and Brent Maddock’s script ensures that the human characters get sufficiently fleshed out with relative ease and without getting bogged down in clunky exposition and backstory some modern blockbusters today still have trouble with.
Stephanie Speck (Sheedy) and Newton Crosby’s (Guttenberg) chemistry is almost instantaneous and delightfully fun to watch as their relationship progresses on screen. C.W. Bailey plays Skroeder, the big bad tasked with taking down Number Five and pretty much plays the exact same character he plays in Police Academy minus the comedy relief. A large part of the funnies in this film come from Benjamin Jabituya played by Fisher Stevens. Whether he’s getting common phrases wrong or just being completely devoid of tact when he’s around Stephanie, it’s played with honesty which makes it all the more funny.
I wore out my VHS copy of this and its sequel growing up. It has a big heart and one heck of a loveable robot at the centre of it all. The action sequences are reflective of the films modest $15m budget which, at the time, wouldn’t have been too shabby. Gotta love those 80’s insults too!
“Hey Laser Lips, Your mama was a snowblower!”
Will it get the ever trending reboot treatment? Possibly. 2009’s Chappie is the closest iteration we’ve had so far but a straight reboot has been stuck in developmental limbo for the past decade so it’s anyone’s guess.
Where are they now?
Ally Sheedy popped up in X-Men Apocolypse as Scott’s Teacher but, as is the case with many 80’s stars, it’s been a life of TV Movies and straight to DVD titles for years. The same can be said for Guttenberg too. Most notably he popped up in Veronica Mars for a handful of episodes and, if you like your Sharknado movies, he was in the 23rd one….
Very few Number/Johnny 5 Robots remained intact and the ones that did are scattered around the U.S. One in particular sold in an online auction for an undisclosed amount a few years back where the starting bid was $100,000. Around 15 were made in total but only a few were fully functional. If you’ve seen one pivotal scene from Short Circuit 2, you know exactly what happened to one of them at least……*sniff*…..it still hurts.
Fun Fact: Robot Maker and Number Five puppeteer Eric Allard went on from Short Circuit to found Special Effects company All Effects. They were tasked with making the Turtle suits for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III which explains why they look so different to the original Jim Henson puppets.
You can purchase Short Circuit at Amazon here.