"Short Circuit" Blu-ray Review
June 04, 2008 by Zach Demeter
Short Circuit is not a film that remained in the minds of moviegoers long after the initial viewing wore off, but it seems that the film has a bit of a stronger following than one would think. While far from the most popular 80s family flick, Short Circuit got plenty of air time on television and cable once it wandered out of theaters in 1986 and, unless Iím misremembering, was a mainstay of the Disney Channel movie lineup for quite some time. While pieces of the film seemed familiar to me, itíd been so long since my eyes had seen Johnny 5 that it was almost an entirely new experience for me to watch this recent Blu-ray release.
When Nova Laboratories demonstrates a set of five new robots made for military purposes, things couldnít have been going better. Even when a thunderstorm started to rain on the presentation, Nova moved things inside to hobnob with the government elite. While the humans were inside, the robots were outside getting charged up after their rigorous field display. The final robot, number five, was just about to come off of the generator when lightning struck and forced an electrical surge to fly through the robots body. Despite fearing the worst, the technicians ultimately decided that number five was fine. Unfortunately for them, they wouldnít find out until it was too late that not only was number five fineÖbut also alive.
Nowadays you wonít find the ďrobots are thinking for themselves! Aggh! Run!Ē concept too original (remember Stealth from a few years back? No? Good.) and while Iím not sure if Short Circuit was one of the original inventors of such a concept, it certainly pulled it off in ways that were in no way as overly dramatic or dire as other modern examples. Despite starting out as a darker film with Johnny Five being evil, Short Circuit progressed into becoming a solid adventure-comedy that the whole family could enjoy. Well, most of the family anyway.
You may ask ďwell, what do you mean Ďmost of the familyí?Ē Well, like most PG movies of the 1980s, Short Circuit is quite loaded with curse words. So many in fact I found myself checking the rating on the back of the case more than once. They dropped pretty much everything but an F-bomb, so itís curious that this film would be so full of vulgarity for what is largely a childrenís film. Then again we are talking about the era that produced Spaceballs, so I guess nothing should come as a surprise with PG rated 80s films.
While I questioned whether Iíd still enjoy watching the film now that Iím older (considering the last time Iíd seen it was probably before I turned 12), I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised that the film still held up after all these years. The jokes still landed and quite a few of them were sharp and witty; the only place I feel the film faltered was in the television/movie references Johnny 5 kept making towards the last half of the film; sure it made him more human and thereís nothing dated about the Three Stooges or John Wayne, but it just got to be too much by the end of the film.
Remarkably I didnít even think the film felt that dated in terms of tech; I mean yeah, the computers that they were using are ancient by todayís standards, but the actual robots created for use in the film still look great. The films lack of reliance on CGI really helps make the performances that much better, as there arenít any quirky looking oddities cropping up on screen. Except perhaps some gun fire or laser fire from the robots was a bit strange looking (especially when it comes through 1080p), but ultimately the film honestly doesnít feel that dated for a science fiction based show. Of course you still have to deal with the funky music, clothing, and hair styles, but hey, thatís part of the fun sometimes.
Short Circuit remains an entertaining adventure film that Iím sure many still enjoy to this day and will continue enjoying with their own kids. While the plot is goofy and the acting is silly, the roles presented here in the film are as unique as they are in films today. The geeky robot creator, the loving animal caretaker and the thick-accented Indian robot assistant that provides copious amounts of comic relief (Iím wondering if the inspiration for Apu didnít somehow stem from this role, played by Fisher Stevens [yup that was Stevens, believe it]). Honestly I donít know if I was entertained by the film or entertained by what they managed to cram into a PG movie, but the film does have a fair amount of heart and uniqueness about it, something you canít say for the usual crap thatís marketed towards the youth today.
If you havenít seen it as a kid, Short Circuit may seem like a waste of time to you but give it a chance anyway. It will surprise you with several points and is worth watching, as long as you donít watch a crippled TV airing. Overall this film comes Recommended.
Short Circuit makes a surprise Blu-ray appearance (of all films to arrive on Blu-ray before othersÖ) and itís quite the respectable release. While it appears to be a repeat of the original 2000 DVD release, the video and audio transfers are all new. Those without a Blu-ray player looking to watch the film in anamorphic widescreen need not worry either, as a Special Edition was released on DVD right alongside this Blu-ray release as well. For the Blu-ray release it arrives in a standard elite blue casing with animated pop-up menus and a brand new high-definition transfer.
For the transfer we get a 2.35:1 1080p image encoded with AVC and a DTS-MA 5.1 audio track. Itís a very nice transfer and is about as clean as one would expect, although there is an instance of color flickering early on in the film, but itís negligible at best. Thereís no real depth or detail to the majority of the transfer, but it still looks good simply because of the resolution. The film doesnít seem to have benefited or have been harmed by the 1080p transfer, so those looking to count the number of hairs in Steve Guttenbergís nose will be sorely disappointed. I know I was.
The DTS-MA 5.1 is crystal clear but really doesnít have much spread or depth with it. It certainly sounds magnificent but the sound effects still sound a bit tin-canny for my taste. Still itís a solid effort, but it isnít anything that will floor you with its bass or channel uses. An isolated music and sound effects track is also included, though Iím not entirely sure what for. It honestly isnít all that active for the majority of the film and considering the dialogue is the films strong point, the inclusion of this is a bit bewildering.
All extras for this edition are presented in standard definition and none are exclusive to the Blu-ray release. The first extra is a commentary by director John Badham and writers S.S. Wilson and Brent Maddock ported over from the 2000 DVD release and it remains as insightful and interesting as before. The commentary contains plenty of reminiscing about the making of the film but it is also absolutely laden with tidbits about the production and writing process of the script as well. Plenty of neat little facts are spread throughout this commentary, so if this is one of your childhood favorites then be sure to check this one out.
The final extras are a Behind the Scenes Featurette (3:51), a ďThe Creation of Number FiveĒ (6:46) featurette and a series of cast and crew video interviews, each clocking in a little over two minutes each. These are all circa-1986 extras, so there isnít anything modern here and are what youíd expect in terms of documentaries and featurettes from that era.
Overall Short Circuit is a solid release if only for the nice technical presentation and superb commentary. Like the film this release comes Recommended.
Short Circuit is now available on Blu-ray.