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Columbia TriStar Home Video presents
Short Circuit 2 (1988)

"You see, this is not the countryside. This is the city-side. There are many people here, and people they are very complicated."
- Ben (Fisher Stevens)

Review By: Rich Rosell   
Published: August 08, 2001

Stars: Fisher Stevens, Michael McKean
Other Stars: Cynthia Gibb, Jack Weston
Director: Kenneth Johnson

MPAA Rating: PG for (language and violence)
Run Time: 01h:50m:14s
Release Date: August 07, 2001
UPC: 043396059955
Genre: comedy

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer

DVD Review

In 1986 audiences were introduced to wisecracking robot Johnny Five (the voice of Tim Blaney) and Ben Jahvri (Fisher Stevens), his English-mangling Indian robotic creator, in the original Short Circuit. It was a dumb little comedy that had the good fortune to feature a couple of charismatic lead characters, one of which just happened to be a robot. We all know Hollywood loves to give us more of those characters we supposedly love, so in their infinite wisdom gave us 1988s' brilliantly titled Short Circuit 2.

Short Circuit was no Citizen Kane, but it found an audience. Short Circuit 2, which seems to consider the use of an intelligent script unneccessary, seems to go under the assumption that more Johnny Five and Ben is all we need. Guess what? That just doesn't always work.

In a film that could have been subtitled Johnny Five Goes To The Big City, we find Ben selling toy replicas of his beloved creation on the streets of New York just to make a living. He meets sleazy salesman Fred (a really unfunny Michael McKean), and in Plot Twist 101, they suddenly become partners in a business to create toy robots for a big New York store. Mix in some valuable diamonds, some bumbling crooks, a cute girl (Cynthia Gibb), and of course plenty of fast-talking Johnny Five, and stir until you end up with 111 minutes of lifeless celluloid.

In all fairness to Short Circuit 2, I will say that Fisher Stevens is funny as Ben, in what must have become an obvious future influence for Apu from The Simpsons. Johnny Five gets some good lines too, though it's a bit unsettling when a robot is funnier than Michael McKean. I'm sure screenwriters S.S. Wilson and Brent Maddock focused their energies on the two leads (Ben and Johnny Five) and that any and all minor players were afterthoughts, as well as was the development of a cohesive plot.

The supporting characters, including veteran Jack Weston, are so one dimensional as to be almost invisible, and drag the film into the muck of mediocrity with little effort. If this was strictly a kid's film, I could understand the thin characterizations. But Short Circuit 2 was intended as a mainstream film, and it misses that mark by a mile-and-a-half.

In hindsight, my ten-year-old daughter Sammy really liked Short Circuit 2, and was a little concerned when Johnny Five was beaten and left for dead by the bad guys. She didn't seem concerned when Michael McKean got knocked around. But beat the crap out of a funny robot, well that's another story.

Rating for Style: C
Rating for Substance: C-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyesno

Image Transfer Review: Short Circuit 2 includes a 1.85:1 anamorphic transfer that must have been transferred from a less than pristine print. Tons of grain, flat colors and excessive edge enhancement make for a visually dull viewing experience. Flesh tones vary significantly, and much of the color palette appears washed out, especially in the outdoor sequences.

A full frame version is available of the flip side of the disc.

Image Transfer Grade: C-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0English, French, Spanish, Portugueseyes

Audio Transfer Review: A lackluster set of 2.0 Surround mixes abound on Short Circuit 2. Minimal rear channel usage, and then only for some music cues. On the plus side, dialogue is clear, and even Fisher Steven's jumbled Indian accent sounds clean.

Nothing to get overly excited about.

Audio Transfer Grade: C


Disc Extras

Static menu with music
Scene Access with 28 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish, French, Portuguese, Chinese, Korean, Thai
6 Other Trailer(s) featuring Buddy, Jumanji, The Karate Kid, Ghostbusters, Hook, Roughnecks: Starship Trooper Chronicles - The Pluto Campaign
1 Featurette(s)
Packaging: Amaray
1 Disc
2-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: Slim pickings here in the extras department. A quickie "Making-of" featurette highlighting Fisher Stevens is over almost as soon as it begins. A handful of cast comments, some behind-the-scenes shots, and then it's over. If only the movie went that quick.

An oddball assortment of trailers for other long in the tooth CTHE properties, with the exception of the Roughnecks:Starship Troopers animation, round out the bonus material with a whimper.

Extras Grade: D


Final Comments

What should have been a fun robot film ends up looking like a cheap television movie. I know the film is from 1988, but it looks more like 1928. Hammy acting and an absurb plot do little but drag out a slow moving film to a ridiculous climax that drowns in it's own battery fluid.

But if you're looking for a rental that the kids haven't seen, you may be in luck. Kids will probably like the antics of Johnny Five, though be forewarned that there is a fair amount of mild language that pops up here and there.


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