Picks and Pans Review: Short Circuit

updated 05/26/1986 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 05/26/1986 AT 01:00 AM EDT

There's a singular original moment in this defiantly derivative comedy. Discovering an apparent alien being on her premises, Ally (St. Elmo's Fire) Sheedy exclaims delightedly, "Oh, my God! I knew they'd pick me." Obviously, this young woman has seen too many creature features. Obviously, so too have the makers of Short Circuit. This movie doesn't just lift from E.T. or Star Wars; it rips off all the rip-offs of those two blockbusters. Everything is calculated to reward pop-culture consciousness. As Sheedy soon learns, the alien is a runaway robot. On its trail are a likable inventor, Steve (Cocoon) Guttenberg, and his sidekick, Fisher (The Flamingo Kid) Stevens, as well as the requisite military-industrial buffoons and bullies. Although the film poses as a humanistic fable, it treats humans like joke machines. The robot gallivants around like the Alan Alda of automatons; sensitive and sincere, it interrupts a chase to ponder the beauty of a butterfly. Meanwhile the actors mechanically sputter wisecracks. In one particularly vulgar sequence, the robot proves its humanity by laughing at an anti-Semitic joke. "Spontaneous emotional response!" glows Guttenberg. Director John Badham, who helped perpetuate the hi-tech movie trend of the '80s with WarGames and Blue Thunder, is such a sterile moviemaker that his films look secondhand even when they're trendsetters. Short Circuit may prove a summer hit for all the wrong reasons: It aspires to be no more than a recycled remembrance of films past. (PG)

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