Case Number 01319


Sony // 1988 // 111 Minutes // Rated PG
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Naugle // August 17th, 2001

The Charge

Johnny Five is alive...again!

Opening Statement

In 1986 a movie so monumental opened that after its success there was only one way to go: a sequel! Director John Badham's Short Circuit was a surprise box office hit and made audiences fall in love with a pile of nuts and bolts named "Number Five." The semi-good news is that in 1988 a sequel was produced, the cleverly titled Short Circuit 2. The bad news is that Steve Guttenberg decided not to reprise his role as the soft-hearted Newton Crosby. Wait, is that actually good news? Anyhow, back to more good news: Fisher Stevens (TV's Early Edition) returned as Ben Jabituya, that lovable, stereotypical Indian who built the Johnny Five prototype! Throw in Michael McKean (Best In Show) as a funny con artist, and you've got '80s retro kiddie fare at its best. Columbia TriStar presents Short Circuit 2 on DVD!

Facts of the Case

At the end of Short Circuit...well, I don't remember what happened. It's been a while since I saw it, so I'll just sum it up from Short Circuit 2: apparently Newton (Guttenberg) and his love interest Stephanie (Ally Sheedy) are living in the mountains with Johnny Five. At the same time electronics wizard Ben (Stevens) has moved to New York to sell miniature toy versions of Johnny Five on street corners.

Through the miracle of movies, Ben is introduced to Sandy (Cynthia Gibb, Youngblood), an assistant at a toy company. Sandy is in desperate need of a hot new toy and thinks Ben's robots may just be the ticket to fruitful sales. Ben and his new street hustling friend Fred (Michael McKean) make a deal to produce a thousand robots. Ben even becomes somewhat smitten with Sandy! All the while Johnny is out looking for his precious "input" from bookstores and shopping malls!

Meanwhile, a couple of bungling thieves are trying to dig their way into a bank vault containing some priceless jewels. Their path just happens to be right underneath Ben's new production facility! Their plan is to use Johnny Five to steal the goods, get the jewels and than dismantle J5 for scrap. Johnny, being the naïve robot that he is, doesn't have a clue that he's being used so deceptively.

Is this the end of Johnny Five? Or will we be subjected to Short Circuit 3: Johnny Five Strikes Back?

The Evidence

Short Circuit 2 couldn't get any cuter if it were smeared with Care Bears and dropped in a vat of melted Cabbage Patch dolls. If I remember correctly, these were the same sentiments I had when I saw the original Short Circuit.

I'm not trying to imply that Short Circuit 2 is a bad movie. I'm also not trying to say that Short Circuit 2 is a good movie, either. It's really just kind of...there. If you're a fan of such films as The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Emmanuelle or Die Hard, then Short Circuit 2 may not be to your liking. If, however, you like things such as butterflies, Easter colored M&Ms, or the Amish, then Short Circuit 2 will be just the sort of entertainment you've been yearning for.

Short Circuit 2 includes such sweet scenes as Johnny Five attempting to blend in with humans by putting on a jacket and snowcap. Ain't that precious! Johnny Five even goes into a Catholic church and sees a priest in the confessional (where the priest tells Johnny he "can't confess by remote control"). How adorable! After getting arrested, Johnny Five gets his mugshot taken! AHHH!!! I'm gonna vomit!

Then again, there is a place in the world for this kind of entertainment. Kids will probably get a kick out of Johnny Five and the slapstick situations that he gets into. When I was a kid I loved these types of movies. In fact, Short Circuit 2 is a throwback to the old Disney movies that featured all kind of wondrous oddities with hearts of gold (such as The Love Bug and Not Quite Human).

Fisher Stevens, though an almost offensive stereotype, plays the part of Ben with sympathetic oddness. Fisher is not Indian by birth, though he plays one very realistically. His love interest played by Cynthia Gibb is a snoozer, her character being sorely underwritten. Michael McKean is also underused as hustler Fred Ritter, though as usual he brings an extra special sparkle to any movie in which he's featured. Director Kenneth Johnson (the "V" miniseries) brings the whole thing together with enough sappiness that I felt like hugging myself as the credits rolled.

Short Circuit 2 is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen on side A and a full frame version on side B. This is a very nice transfer with only a few slight problems showing up. First off there is a bit of softness to the image. There was also a small amount edge enhancement that was a bit intrusive at times. A bit of grain was also present, though not for very long. Overall the colors were bright and bold with dark and solid blacks.

Audio is presented in Dolby Surround 2.0, featured in English, Portuguese, French and Spanish. This track is very middle-of-the-road, and features clear dialogue, music and effects. Speakers were utilized though not very strongly. It's a decent track that gets the job done. Also included are English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, Thai, and Korean subtitles. Yes, now the whole world can enjoy the excitement that is Short Circuit 2!

Short Circuit 2 includes only a couple of special features, including a "Making of Featurette: Actor Profile on Fisher Stevens." This looks as if it were used for promotional purposes back in 1988 when the film was released in theaters. The feature includes interviews with cast members Fisher Stevens, Cynthia Gibb and Michael McKean. The narrator for this feature sounds like he's about to fall asleep at the microphone. A short and ultimately pointless feature. Also included are some bonus trailers for The Karate Kid, Ghostbusters, Hook, Jumanji, Buddy and Roughnecks: Starship Troopers Chronicles -- The Pluto Campaign. Mysteriously, no trailers for either Short Circuit film are included.

The Rebuttal Witnesses

Short Circuit 2 is not a badly made film. Even so, it's just not all that exciting. The performances are decent, and the effects (what there are of them) are well done. There is a scene near the end where Cynthia Gibb strums a guitar and sings. I think that certainly brought the movie down at least three notches in my book.

Closing Statement

If you're looking for something light as a rice cake, you've found it. Short Circuit 2 is a great movie for kids, instilling in them such values as love, tolerance, and what to do if you're best friend is an obnoxiously cute robot. Columbia TriStar does a nice job on both the transfer and the audio tracks, though supplemental-wise this DVD leaves much to be desired...not that I was overly upset by a lack of commentary tracks or deleted footage.

The Verdict

My indifference to the whole thing says to let it go free...Short Circuit 2 does no harm, though it's not doing much good either.

Review content copyright © 2001 Patrick Naugle; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2016 HipClick Designs LLC

Scales of Justice
Video: 89
Audio: 85
Extras: 45
Acting: 89
Story: 75
Judgment: 70

Perp Profile
Studio: Sony
Video Formats:
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Full Frame

Audio Formats:
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (French)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (Portuguese)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (Spanish)

* English
* Chinese
* French
* Korean
* Portuguese
* Spanish
* Thai

Running Time: 111 Minutes
Release Year: 1988
MPAA Rating: Rated PG

Distinguishing Marks
* Bonus Theatrical Trailers
* Making Of Featurette: Actor Profile on Fisher Stevens

* IMDb