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Film: Making Contact

A 1985 German film written and directed by Roland Emmerich prior to making his big move to Hollywood.

Young Joey Collins is a regular kid whose father has recently died. He has difficulty dealing with his dad's death. After a heartfelt wish for his deceased parent to return, he begins getting phone calls from his dead dad... on a toy telephone that isn't connected to anything. In addition, Joey begins developing psychic powers and telekinesis, which he tells his concerned mother Laura and schoolteacher Martin that were taught to him by his ghostly father. The toys in his bedroom also come to life at random intervals, and one of them, a toy robot named Charlie, stays alive and befriends Joey.

One day, Joey's life is turned upside-down when he decides to explore the condemned, burned-out house of a long dead magician. Here, he stumbles across an old ventriloquist dummy named Fletcher, and takes him home. But when Joey isn't around, much to Charlie the robot's dismay, Fletcher opens his eyes... and growls. The evil dummy has powers of his own and becomes hellbent on preventing Joey from making contact with his dad's ghost for some reason, and just generally causing chaos and mayhem.

It was filmed in the US with English-speaking German actors and released there under the title Making Contact. A longer cut, dubbed into German, was released to theaters in Emmerich's native Germany under the title Joey. The German cut runs twenty minutes longer than the US one and has a more ambiguous ending than the American version. Although it contains a different story from them, it contains numerous references to the earlier films of Steven Spielberg and George Lucas (in particular Star Wars and E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial).

Tropes used in this film:

  • Adults Are Useless: Bizarrely, averted early on, then subverted and finally ultimately played depressingly straight as the film progresses and focuses more and more on the children.
  • Attack of the 50-Foot Whatever: Various giant monsters, including a monster-sized version of Fletcher, but the most noteworthy is a giant killer hamburger.
  • Big Eater: The chubby bully.
  • Character Title: The German version only.
  • Children Are Cruel: William and his friends make fun of Joey for missing his dead father. And when he uses his psychic powers to blow up their remote control tanks which they were using to terrorize Charlie the robot, they retaliate by attempting to kidnap him from his own home for God knows what ultimate purpose.
  • Coincidental Broadcast: Sort of. The radio reports about the phone blackouts affecting the entire town of course are relevant. The most obvious one is the documentary about the dead magician and his ventriloquist act, but it can be argued Fletcher made this play as a means of explaining to Joey who he was in lieu of talking to him.
  • Covers Always Lie: The poster for the US release claims only Joey can see the magical goings on. This is untrue. Other people can and do witness both his and Fletcher's antics. The only thing Joey can see that others cannot is the magician's ghost at the end.
  • Demonic Dummy: Who else but Fletcher?
  • Disney Death: Joey. It's difficult to properly explain, but essentially he rushes through a door at the center of the magician's maze and enters the spirit realm to greet his dead father. Then it cuts to the police finding him comatose in the woods. ER doctors try and fail to revive him. All of the characters (even the bullies!) say their tearful goodbyes to him, and then randomly he just resurrects for an instant happy ending. The US cut is more overt about this, whereas the German version leaves his survival only a suggestion.
  • Gang Of Bullies: Initially there's only two or three but the group soon swells to roughly six, including a little girl.
  • High-Class Glass: Fletcher wears a monocle.
  • Kill It with Fire: Fletcher, ultimately.
  • The Maze: There's one underneath the old house, where Fletcher traps the kids. It may or may not have just been imaginary though.
  • New Powers as the Plot Demands: Applies to both Joey and Fletcher.
  • Police Are Useless: Played totally and insanely straight. They actually retreat from a gang of nine-year olds flinging paint at them.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Martin, Joey's teacher.
  • Robot Buddy: Charlie.
  • Save the Villain: Well, more like save the annoying Jerk Ass schoolkids. When Fletcher endangers the bullies and traps them in the old house, Joey sucks it up and actually rescues their sorry behinds.
  • Silent Bob: Fletcher mostly just growls and snarls, but when he does talk, what he has to say is usually pretty disturbing:
    Joey: What do you want with me?
    Fletcher: A game.
  • Too Good for This Sinful Earth: Joey's death is treated as this. Subverted in that he gets better.
  • Weirdness Censor: Utterly averted. Despite their effectiveness being questionable, the grown-ups do notice and react to all of the supernatural stuff going on.

Mädchen in UniformGerman FilmsMetropolis
Lost in AmericaFilms of the 1980sThe Man With One Red Shoe
MagicHorror FilmsMama

alternative title(s): Making Contact
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