Don’t judge me. He was the Man in the 80s.
Police Academy. Three Men and a Baby. Cocoon. That crazy Village People movie (watch paired with Xanadu as it was meant to be seen, and then ask yourself “why?” while curled up in the fetal position).
Steve Guttenberg was hilarious but nice and always getting one up on the buttholes of the world. He might not have been as handsome as Tom Selleck or famous as Ted Danson. But he was still adorable and I still kind of adored him.
At least until I fell madly in love with Kyle MacLachlan, but that is another story for another time.
Short Circuit is probably my favorite of the Steve Guttenberg oeuvre. Here he gets a chance to play the romantic leading man with only a robot that has achieved consciousness to rival him. It’s no wonder he ends up getting the girl in the end. How can a robot compete with all that ‘Gute’ charm, after all?
The plot basically breaks down like this: Because it’s the 80s and it is pretty much required by law, a robotics company has used a nerdy genius’s genius to create killer robots that can be shipped out to the front lines in battle scenarios. He isn’t terribly impressed by this but is going along with it anyway because plot development. A flashy twist of fate changes all that when robot Number 5 is struck by lightning and becomes self-aware. He escapes the clutches of his creators and goes on a journey of self-discovery that includes a fair amount of disco dancing, bug squashing, bad driving, Three Stooges hijinks, military shoot outs, and Ally Sheedy.
I must have seen this movie dozens of times while growing up, and I’ve seen it at least a half dozen times since reaching adulthood. It’s just so dang cute. Number Five is a messy, curious, dangerous but ultimately lovable character. Ally Sheedy is cute and maternal and willing to put up with Number Five and all the danger he brings with him. And, of course, Steve Guttenberg is adorable as an anti-social geek forced to head out into the big bad world and interact with not only a robot who is bucking his programming but a perky young lady he (almost immediately) has the hots for.
Of course as I’ve gotten older I’ve noticed the Important Messages scattered throughout this little family flick. The questions of what makes us human, where the line exists between ‘alive’ and ‘not alive,’ and how responsible we are for the beings we create that see themselves as individuals are very much apparent now that I’m focusing more on the story and less on the fact that a robot is driving a food truck (very badly).
But luckily with a great soundtrack, special effects that hold up surprisingly well, computer interfaces that are totally dated, and a healthy dose of Steve Guttenberg throughout, Short Circuit is just too dang cute to be dragged down by those Important Messages.
– Mia V.
Short Circuit, Rated PG, 1986
Starring Steve Guttenberg, Ally Sheedy, Fisher Stevens, GW Bailey
Directed by John Badham
Written by SS Wilson, Brent Maddock
*Watch Short Circuit on ThisTV: Friday 6/20 at 7p, Sunday 6/22 at 11a