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Film / Short Circuit

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"Number Five... is Alive!"

"Life is not a malfunction."
Stephanie Speck

Short Circuit is a pair of films about a bleeding edge military robot who becomes self-aware. Dubbed "Number Five" (Tim Blaney), his first instinct as a sentient being is to invert the Killer Robot genre: he doesn't want to kill, and is hunted by the weapons manufacturer that made him. It doesn't slot easily into any one genre, instead toying with hard sci-fi, romantic comedy, tragedy, revenge drama, and slapstick (Number Five ignoring his laser cannon to sling mud at people).

In the first film (1986), Number Five short-circuits during a routine maintenance check and flees his birthplace of NOVA Robotics. With mobile tank treads, hair-trigger tactile response, dodgy AI and packing serious heat, Five is the grandaddy of corporate liability. In a panic, NOVA deploys its private security force to recapture and/or destroy the robot while his original programmers (Steve Guttenberg and Fisher Stevens) try to stall them. Sure enough, Number Five pulls into a nearby town and befriends a Granola Girl named Stephanie Speck (Ally Sheedy), who mistakes him for an extra-terrestrial and NOVA for an evil government agency. Meanwhile, Number Five is adapting... learning... and willfully ignoring commands.

The second film (Short Circuit 2, 1988) centers on Benjamin Jabituya (now inexplicably called Benjamin "Jahrvi"), who helped program Number Five and was blackballed as a result. Living out of a truck, Ben now hustles little NOVA-inspired toys in Manhattan, but he's having problems getting production up to speed. So, Stephanie sends Number Five, now calling himself Johnny Five, who is a one robot production line. Unfortunately, Ben's business partner Fred Ritter (Michael McKean) sees bigger opportunities. But all this takes a back seat to Johnny being manipulated by thieves to help in a bank heist, which shatters Johnny's naiveté and leaves him wanting revenge.

A third film was in talks afterwards, but was eventually canned due to scripts not meeting expectations. Johnny 5 would eventually return in a TV short named Hot Cars, Cold Facts with his having his own home and a car. Even though it was primarily an educational film regarding vehicle ownership and insuring, the comedy of the two movies remains.

Pixar stated that Johnny Five provided some (unintended) inspiration for WALL•E, both in appearance and personality. A remake is being planned, but it is in the very early stages.

The movies contain examples of:

  • Accidental Misnaming: Ben keeps calling Johnny "Number Johnny Five". He doesn't really seem to mind though.
  • Actor Allusion: There is a lot of Thaddeus Harris in the character Skroeder.
  • Actual Pacifist: What Johnny wants to be, though NOVA trying to capture him in the first film and the bank robbers in the second push him into Technical Pacifist when he's forced to defend himself. Tellingly, he only applies the absolute minimum amount of carefully-calculated force to preserve life, it's only after a positively brutal attempt on his life that he actively seeks to use violence to stop the robbers, and even then, still does so without causing unecessary harm.
  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot: Inverted. There's nothing wrong with the AI until lightning gets involved. Even then, the AI is incredibly amicable and nonviolent, and takes some serious pushing (a major betrayal and very serious and brutal attempt on its life) just to move it from an Actual Pacifist to a Technical Pacifist.
  • Ain't Too Proud to Beg: Johnny spends the entire scene in which he receives a No-Holds-Barred Beatdown begging the goons to stop until they damage his vocal systems.
  • Anti-Villain: Howard is in charge of the efforts to recapture or destroy Number Five, but he doesn't understand Johnny Five is truly sentient, gets along fairly well with Crosby, is only bluffing when he holds Newton and Ben at gunpoint in one scene, and shows a sense of depression and sadness when it looks as if Johnny Five has been destroyed, and eventually fires Skroeder (The Heavy).
  • Arc Words: Number Five maintains throughout the film that he is "alive". It takes quite a bit of persuading before everyone else agrees with him. The word is given special significance in all of his lines.
  • Armies Are Evil: Strictly speaking, the "soldiers" are NOVA's security team and not proper military, but close enough. It's also implied that the actual army would happily use the robots as a new and better way to commit as many war crimes as possible. That was the marketing pitch, anyway; the army never actually bought them.
  • Artistic License – Engineering: Johnny Five is duped into tunnelling underground to break into a bank in the sequel. Following many robberies in the 70s, vault technology changed rapidly in the 1980s to make them resistant to such attack, being fitted with seismic sensors. Unless Oscar told him he switched them off (as part of an inside-job) Johnny would've set off alarms long before entering the safety deposit box. Johnny's tunnel boring parts would also be worn out halfway under the road, and need changing.
  • Artistic License – Military: More along the lines of artistic license security guards and not the military. While Skroeder was entirely justified in tracking down a rogue robot with a laser weapon, not once do we see him or any of his men coordinate with local, county, State or Federal law enforcement or even mention calling them to warn of a potential danger to the public. As private security guards, they had no legal authority to block public roads, hold civilians at gun point, conduct a "precision operation" on private property or stage gun battles outside of the Nova Robotics grounds. In real life, had Skroeder done any of those things, he and his security people would've been arrested on the spot. Even at the climax where the US Army finally gets called in, there still is no sign of any law enforcement.
  • Ascended Extra: While Ben was already part of the main cast in the first film, he got a bigger billing in the sequel.
  • Award-Bait Song: The first movie has Come and Follow Me by Max Carl and Marcy Levy.
  • Badass Boast: From the second movie:
    Los Locos: Los Locos kick your ass! Los Locos kick your face! Los Locos kick your balls into outer space!note 
  • Badass Bystander: During the scene at the bar, the bartender breaks a bottle over a NOVA soldier's head and shoves him off her bar.
  • Badass Unintentional: Johnny Five, in the second movie, since he's a Technical Pacifist.
  • Bank Robbery: Oscar's scheme in the sequel.
  • Become a Real Boy: One of the plot points of the second movie is Johnny Five's quest to be recognized as sentient. He eventually is, and becomes a naturalized U.S. citizen alongside Ben at the end.
  • Berserk Button: Do not mistreat Johnny Five's friends, and do not treat him like a mere machine. He WILL find you, and he WILL deal the most humiliating yet nonviolent punishment imaginable. Stephanie's ex-boyfriend and Oscar both found that out firsthand.
    "You will not get away! I am really pissed off!!"
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Johnny and Ben. You do not want to be around Ben if something's happened to Johnny on your watch. Just see Berserk Button above to see why it's an equally bad idea to take Johnny lightly. With as nice and sweet as he can be, it's easy to forget Johnny is a military grade robot designed for combat.
  • Big, Stupid Doodoo-Head: "I've got an error message for you! I'll scramble your RAM!!" Quoted by Saunders, apparently unsure of how to properly insult a robot. Johnny is understandably less than impressed.
  • Blank Slate: Number 5 is a fast learner though.
  • Brown Face: Fisher Stevens, who plays Benjamin, is a White Jewish man, and not an Indian or Pakistani man, as he is cast here.
  • Bloodless Carnage: The attack against Johnny 5 in the second movie, although there is a lot of Machine Blood in the form of battery fluid.
  • Bollywood Nerd: Ben.
  • Break the Cutie: Quite literally, in the second movie.
  • Brick Joke: One of the phrases that Johnny passes to Ben during his date with Sandy is translated by Sandy as "Your mother sleeps (makes love with) with my dog". At the movie's climax, Johnny uses the same phrase to taunt a crook.
  • Bus Full of Innocents: Howard is scared that the malfunctioning Number 5 might attack one.
    Howard: What if it goes out and melts down a busload of nuns? How'd you like to write the headline on that one?!
    Ben: Nun soup?
    Newton: BEN!
  • But I Read a Book About It:
    • Newton's response when Ben asks if he's ever seen a woman naked.
    • Standard fare for Johnny-Five. With most of his fairly shortnote  life spent interacting with only about a half-dozen humans in any significant way, the majority of his experience and knowledge comes from the piles upon piles of books he's read.
  • Call-Back: Number Five's "Today, Crosby, today!" line in the first movie is a call back to two previous scenes in the same movie, where Skroeder ordered his men using a similar line ("Today, gentlemen, today!").
  • The Cameo: Ally Sheedy has an uncredited vocal one in the second one when Number Five reads the letter Stephanie sends Ben in her voice.
  • Candlelit Bath: Parodied:
    Number Five: "Stephanie... change color? Attractive! Nice software!"
  • Changing of the Guard: From Newton Crosby and Stephanie as the main human protagonists to Ben and (eventually) Fred.
  • Character Development: Ben graduates from a Chivalrous Pervert Funny Foreigner to a three-dimensional protagonist Funny Foreigner between films.
  • Chekhov's Skill: Too many to list, most notably Johnny's magnet and remote control.
  • Chrome Champion: Johnny's makeover in the epilogue of Short Circuit 2. He looks like R.O.B. mated with an Academy Award.
  • Colonel Bogey March: As Number Five reprograms the robots at the roadhouse, he's whistling it.
  • Confessional: At one point in the sequel, Johnny rolls his way into a church confessional. He gets chased away by the priest, who assumes he's a telepresence device, and tells the "person on the other end" to come to church personally if he wishes to confess.
  • Couldn't Find a Pen: With his voice box damaged, Johnny uses a rock to scrape out an S.O.S. on a brick wall.
  • Creative Closing Credits: The first movie has a recap of the story behind the end credits, including several Deleted Scenes (like the one with Number Five and a coffee-cup bearing robot).
  • Creator Cameo: During Stephanie's impromptu news interview, director John Badham makes a cameo appearance as the news cameraman.
  • Cute Machines: Number/Johnny Five is intended as this, of course, but the little Johnny Five toys take the cake.
    • Notable in that Johnny's appearance changes shortly after his accident, to differentiate him from the other four prototypes and make him look slightly less sinister. He loses an apparently-useless box on the top of his head and an armored cowling over the little blinky-light thing that he uses to talk. He also keeps his "eyelids" open, giving him an innocent, wide-eyed look in contrast to the other robots, who keep their eyelids closed, leaving only a slit to see out of, which makes them look like they're scowling or frowning.
  • Darker and Edgier: Part II had some pure nightmare fuel moments. Such as Oscar and his gang destroying Johnny 5 and leaving him for dead. Then there is the fact that Part II was the one movie where it looked like his life was really in danger.
  • Decoy Getaway: Dr. Crosby's NOVA van happens to have enough spare parts for SAINT robots that Number Five builds a decoy. NOVA blows it up at the end of the first film, with everyone thinking it's the real Number Five.
  • Determinator: Johnny 5 takes a lot of abuse in both movies, but always dispenses justice and emerges with a nonsensical catch-phrase and good attitude. He may not be indestructible, but his optimism is.
  • Disney Death: Lampshaded, then averted.
  • Dissimile: Fred explaining that he didn't "lose" Johnny Five. He just "misplaced him, y'know? Like your car keys."
  • Do-Anything Robot: Let's see... in the first film Johnny has a parachute, an electric tool kit mounted on a "third arm" that can do everything from pick locks to whisk pancake batter, and a laser weapon powerful enough to blow up cars. In the second film he's retained the tool kit arm, upgraded the parachute to a hang glider, swapped the laser for a "utility pack" featuring everything from an umbrella to a grappling hook to a plasma cutter powerful enough to cut through a bank vault wall, and added a "multi-frequency remote control" that lets him control almost anything electrical within range.
  • Does Not Know His Own Strength: Johnny, in the second movie. When he wants to push past someone (usually Fred) he tends to toss him halfway across the room. Not to mention the trouble he gives the two police officers when they arrest him for trashing the bookstore.
    Johnny Five: I am NOT stolen goods! (slams fists on the table, yanking the police officers down)
  • Dumb Muscle: One of Oscar's lackeys from the sequel: Jones, who, despite being The Brute of the group, impatiently ignores his genius partner's Techno Babble advice before going after Johnny 5.
  • Electronic Speech Impediment: Johnny develops this in Short Circuit 2 after getting nearly beaten to death by the thieves and also getting a temporary repair job done to him.
  • Energy Weapon: All the military robots. In the sequel, Johnny replaces his with a Utility Pack.
  • Even Evil Has Standards:
    • Oscar and his goons may be willing do almost anything to get away with their diamond-stealing scheme, but they draw the line at murder, only imprisoning Ben and Fred in a restaurant freezer to get them out of the way. Unfortunately for them, the fact that they're still willing to savagely beat Johnny Five to death because their standards don't extend to HIM is the last straw that drives him into a state of vengeful fury. Possibly the only time this trope has functioned as a hero's Berserk Button.
      • Even then, while he went through with it, ultimately, one of said goons looked visibly uncomfortable with murdering Johnny 5.
  • Every Helicopter Is a Huey: Although the helicopter that chases down and destroys the decoy Number Five is not a Huey, but a JetRanger, this trope is lampshaded:
    Skroeder: ...and I'm going to need some Hueys.
    Howard: Some what?
    Skroeder: HELICOPTERS, Howard. Jesus Christ!
    Howard: I thought they were choppers.
    Skroeder: Well, now they're called Hueys.
    Howard: Well, why wasn't I notified?
    • This is likely Skroeder's mistake, as "Huey" is a specific model of helicopter, not the catch-all term for helicopters Skroeder seems to think it is.
    • Either that, or he did know the difference, but was too annoyed to explain it to Howard.
  • Everyone Knows Morse: Subverted in the sequel; when Ben and Fred are locked in a freezer and rig a calculator to send a message to Sandy's answering machine, they discover that neither of them know Morse code. Instead, they send directions to their location using the tunes of popular songs.
  • Everything Is Online: Johnny Five can access any electronics remotely with a transmitter in his head. He can also control cars, cranes and other things that (at the time the films were made) didn't even have any electronics controlling them.
  • Evil Old Folks: Oscar Baldwin.
  • Exact Time to Failure: Johnny Five's battery.
  • Expies: Newton Crosby and Skroeder, respectively played by Steve Guttenberg and G. W. Bailey, of Mahoney and Harris from Police Academy.
  • Explain, Explain... Oh, Crap!: Number 5 makes the connection between a dead grasshopper and NOVA's intent to dismantle him:
    Five: Error: grasshopper disassemble... re-assemble!
    Stephanie: I can't reassemble him; you squashed him. He's dead.
    Five: 'Dead'? ...Reassemble, Stephanie, reassemble!
    Stephanie: ...When you're dead, you're dead. Dead is forever.
    Five: Squash... dead. Disassemble... dead. Disassemble, DEAD?!
  • Eyepatch of Power: Johnny during his quest for vengeance.
  • Eye Scream: In this case: Robotic eye, meet axe. Ouch. See Family-Unfriendly Violence.
  • Failing a Taxi: Johnny launches a grapple magnet to capture a taxi for Ben.
  • False Friend: Oscar. You really ought to see it coming, but he's so jolly that many viewers don't.
    • Johnny thinks of Fred as this after Fred tries to sell him, but they patch things up later. In Fred's defence, he wasn't aware at the time that Johnny really was alive.
  • Family-Unfriendly Violence: Johnny Five's ridiculously graphic maiming at the hands of the bank robbers.
  • Fantastic Racism: Johnny seems to believe this is the reason Oscar tried to kill Johnny, but only locked Ben and Fred in a freezer. . It's hard to say he's wrong.
    Johnny Five: Oh sure, kidnap the humans, (angrily) destroy the machine!
  • Fire-Forged Friends: Fred treats Johnny like he's his personal butler (partly because Ben kept him in the dark about Johnny's AI), then tries to sell him to some corporate bigwigs, prompting Johnny to unleash the white hot rage: "He is NOT my friend!" However, after Johnny is nearly killed by Oscar's mooks, Fred scours the city for him and later repairs him single-handedly. By the end of the movie, they've become an Adventure Duo.
  • Flipping the Bird: In the first movie, Newton Crosby does this to his co-worker Benjamin Jabituya with his robotic hand. Benjamin asks Newton if he's showing the number of his IQ with that finger.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • Oscar's goons destroying the Johnny 5 replica early in the second film.
      • Specifically, that it was done with an axe.
    • And at the police station:
      Johnny 5: ...If you prick us, do we not bleed?
      Policeman: Yeah, battery fluid maybe.
      • Before that, Johnny 5 mentions to Ben that he changed out his old battery for a new lithium-argon liquid battery.
  • Freudian Slip: In the first film, when Stephanie Speck calls Nova Laboratories on the phone, saying that she would want to speak to "one of your head warmongers", (she is of course taking the piss), the person receiving the phone call calls Dr. Marner "Dr. Warmonger" before correcting himself and handing Dr. Marner the phone.
  • Freud Was Right:
    Johnny Five: "Doctor Ruth says, 'Violence is ze expression of sexual frustration.'"
  • Friend to All Living Things: Stephanie, and later, Johnny Five.note 
  • Funny Foreigner: Benjamin Jabituya. In the first movie, he was more of a Plucky Comic Relief character. In the second movie, they gave him the last name Jahrvi and tried to give him a more serious story, while still keeping him funny.
  • Fun with Acronyms: S.A.I.N.T. touches on nightmare fuel, given the root is Strategic Artificially Intelligent Nuclear Transport.. The SAINT series are nuke delivery platforms, designed (as explained at the start of the first film) to be para-dropped into enemy cities, use their maneuverability, intelligence, and weaponry to safely deliver their nuclear payload to their target, and then blow themselves up. note 
  • Gangbangers:
    "Los Locos kick your ass!"
    "Los Locos kick your face!"
    "Los Locos kick your balls into outer SPAAAAAACE!"
  • Geek Physiques: Ben and his bank robber counterpart, Saunders, are both portrayed as weaklings.
  • General Ripper: Skroeder decides (without bothering to listen to the guy who built it or coordinate with law enforcement) that recovering Number Five requires loads and loads of military firepower aimed in the general direction of the robot regardless of the presence of innocent bystanders. Ironically, this sort of wanton destruction is precisely what Nova Robotics are concerned their missing robot might do.
  • Genius Ditz: Newton Crosby ("Ph. Dork"). But he's Tony Stark when compared to his sidekick, an squirrely Indian man who thinks of nothing but sex. Number Five also qualifies, being that he's technically the youngest member of the cast.
  • George Jetson Job Security: Happens to Newton Crosby, Ben Jabituya, and Skroeder:
    Skroeder [after he thinks he's just destroyed Number 5]: Magnificent! Now that, my friend, is how you kick ass!
    Howard Marner: Years of research down the tubes, and you're as happy as a pig in slop.
    Skroeder: Just doing my job, sir.
    Howard Marner: Maybe from now on, you can do it somewhere else.
  • Glass Cannon: the SAINT units sure can dish it out with their lasers, but they lack any armor to speak of - probably due to being early prototypes; one expects actual military units would be encased in rather more protective shells without exposed equipment. They rely on effective offense to prevent damage before it can be dealt, and Johnny himself has pretty effective ways of protecting himself from a single threat using whatever's lying around; however, if there are multiple threats, or if an attack comes from an unforeseen location, they're surprisingly easy to take out - a few bullets damage Johnny 5 enough that he can be reached and shut down in the first film, and all it takes to take him out in the second is an axe from a direction he isn't expecting. Johnny himself has an easy time disabling the other SAINT units - some mud in the eyes, a basic rope trap and a sudden maneuver get them all out of the fight.
  • Good Costume Switch: In the first movie, Number Five loses the plate covering his "mouth" during his escape, making him look much less intimidating than the other SAINT prototypes.
  • Granola Girl: Stephanie. Takes in all manner of poor and homeless animals (and one sentient robot), runs a truck that she sells natural food out of, and expresses her deep displeasure with the military and their weapons.
  • G-Rated Drug: Apparently, knowledge is this to a newly sentient robot. Played for Laughs, of course.
    Number Five: Need! More! Input!
  • Grow Beyond Their Programming: Number Five, after being shocked by lightning, spontaneously develops the ability to learn at an accelerated pace, eventually becoming fully sapient.
  • Happily Ever After: The letter from Stephanie in the second film implies this to be the case for her and Newton after the first film.
  • Hero Antagonist: Captain Skroeder and Howard Marner.
  • Heroic RRoD: After his brutal beating, Johnny pursues Oscar's gang despite being badly damaged and leaking battery fluid. He eventually catches them but loses power and nearly dies.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Newton and Ben. (Ben lampshades this a couple of times.)
  • Hilarious Outtakes: The first film's credits play over snippets of various scenes, including scenes that were cut from the final movie, including Number Five playing with a model airplane, escaping a car crusher in a junkyard, and encountering an Omnibot 2000 (a toy robot that was made during that time) trying to serve him orange juice.
  • Honest Corporate Executive: Howard Marner, as he only sent out his military forces to capture Number Five as he believed him to be a dangerous robot with a laser cannon. Howard also overlaps with Corrupt Corporate Executive in a downplayed sense, for viewing the sentient Number Five as another robot of his assembly line that has gone rogue and needs to be recaptured to reprogram and that fact he is Only in It for the Money.
  • Hope Spot: During the first film's finale. Until the helicopter shows up. Fortunately, it isn't the real Number Five they blew up.
  • Human Mail: Though not technically a human, Johnny Five mails himself to Benjamin in the city (with the help of Newton and Stephanie), after being rejected as an airplane passenger.
  • Humiliation Conga: How Number Five deals with Frank. First, he reduces his Pontiac Firebird into its components. Then, he effortlessly deflects a volley of shots from Frank's hunting rifle with his own hubcap. Then, he uses his laser to melt Frank's boots, hat, and belt buckle into molten slag.
    • Also befalls the other S.A.I.N.T. robots and the bank robbers in the second film multiple times. Basically anyone who goes up against Johnny Five is doomed to suffer one of these.
    • Johnny himself essentially gets one through the entire second movie, as it's brutally pointed out to him at every turn that, aside from Newton, Stephanie, and Ben, not a single human being believes he's truly alive. A Catholic priest shoos him out of a church believing him to be nothing more than a telepresence device, the police impound him as stolen property instead of arresting him, and Los Locos, Fred, and Oscar all take advantage of his naive and trusting nature to get what they want out of him.
  • I Am Not a Gun: In the second movie, Johnny has his laser weapon removed in favor of a Batman-esque utility pack.
  • Implausible Deniability: The "Department of Car Stereo Repair".
  • Improvised Bandage: Towards the end of the second film, Johnny is "bleeding" battery acid after nearly being beaten to death by some thugs after they've tricked him into helping their robbery. Fred Ritter (who'd previously tried to sell Johnny to a company) finds him, and sacrifices his prized silk shirt to staunch it.
  • Incredibly Obvious Bug: On Number Five. At least in this case they weren't expecting the robots to try to get rid of them.
  • Inkblot Test: Administered to Number Five by Crosby as part of a Turing Test. Unintentionally, as it turns out. Newton intended (and indeed, initially got) a chemical analysis of soup poured on paper. Then Johnny interpreted what the actual blot looked like.
  • Innocent Blue Eyes: Johnny 5, naturally. Unless they turn red.
  • Insane Proprietor: Manic Mike, of the nearby Radio Shack. Which becomes plot-critical at an important moment.
  • Inspector Javert: Captain Skroeder stops at nothing to capture and destroy an escaped piece of military equipment. Initially his actions are sane and reasonable (this is a robot with an armed laser) but he ultimately Jumps Off The Slippery Slope. The creators admit that Skroeder would have been the hero were this a straight Killer Robot film. But it isn't, thus he's not.
  • Instant A.I.: Just Add Water!: Lightning in this case, but the effect is much the same. Downplayed, as while it gives him the capacity to learn outside his programming, it takes several days of absorbing information before approaching the intelligence of a human and being able to make moral choices.
  • Instant Expert: Number Five assimilates information at an insane speed, going through every volume of an encyclopedia within seconds. Notably, this doesn't help him learn morality; he's still got the mentality of a five-year old, just a very smart one. In particular, speed-reading the owner's manual for Stephanie's truck teaches him how to drive, but not how to obey traffic laws.
  • Jerkass: Stephanie's ex-boyfriend from the first movie.
  • Just Think of the Potential!: When asked by a Senator about the SAINT project's origins, Crosby lets slip the fact that he intended them as a marital aid. (Then again, he might've been trying to make a fool of Howard.)
  • Know When to Fold 'Em: In the second film, after seeing Johnny easily overpower Jones, Saunders immediately surrenders.
    Johnny: Excuse me, could you put your arms down please?
    Saunders: (immediately complies) Sure.
    Johnny: Thank you.
    Saunders: You're welcome.
  • Lampshade Hanging: In the first movie Newton asks Ben where the hell he's from, since he's clearly not ethnically Indian despite the exaggerated accent. He claims he's from Bakersfield and his family is from Pittsburgh. This could be read as an admission that he's a white guy who's just eccentric, but the ending of the second movie shows he isn't an American citizen up to that point.
  • Large Ham: Skroeder is quite the ham, played with a side of grits by G.W. Bailey:
    Skroeder: "Crosby, I'm tellin' you right now: this fart of a robot is beginning to give me the red-ass!"
    Skroeder: "What the hell is the matter with you, your four-eyed idiot!?"
    Newton: [muttering, tending to Number Five] "What an asshole..."
    Skroeder: "I HEARD THAT!"
  • Law Enforcement, Inc.: NOVA's private military.
  • Let's Get Dangerous!: Two examples from the second film:
    • The first time Oscar's goons try to beat him up, Johnny grabs the pipes they are using and shouts, "Bad humans!" (complete with Red Eyes, Take Warning) before swinging them around and launching them out of the warehouse door.
    • After the goons successfully beat him up and Fred repairs him, Johnny fixes a mohawk to his head and growls, "All right, let's party!" before going out for revenge.
  • Lightning Can Do Anything: A single bolt is all that stands between a sufficiently advanced robot and sentience. Though it's nebulous if the lightning, the constant stream of random input at Stephanie's, or both made Number 5 truly alive.
  • Limited Wardrobe: Fred seemingly owns only one — admittedly expensive — shirt, which he wears on a daily basis. This makes it all the more poignant when Fred tears his sleeve off without hesitation, applying it to Johnny's leaking battery.
    Johnny: Not your shilk sirt — silk shirt.
  • Literal-Minded: Double subverted in a rather beautiful way with the inkblot turing test mentioned above. When first asked "What do you make of this?" Five gives the literal answer: a chemical analysis of soup poured on paper, seemingly demonstrating Creative Sterility. But then...
    Five: "...and resemble...look like... Butterfly. Bird. Maple leaf."
    Newton: "Where?! Holy Shit!"
    Five(inspecting paper): "No shit. Where see shit?"
    • Other times, of course, Johnny 5 falls headlong into this. Memorably, in the first film, he tries to cook Stephanie breakfast, literally following the instructions. He beats pancake batter until smooth (not caring that he's splattering it all over the kitchen and himself), and "for crisp yet moist potatoes, brown on one side then turn over." He browns the cardboard box the potatoes are in on one side, then turns the entire frying pan over.
  • Loan Shark: Fred uses one to sponsor his business with Ben, with thirty days to pay up. When the jewel thieves first confront Fred and Ben with ski masks, Fred first thinks it's the loan shark's henchmen. Ben's ignorance of the term leads to the following line:
    Ben: Oh, dearie! Now you're expecting me to believe that you borrowed money from a fish!
  • Lock-and-Load Montage: Johnny Five goes through this after being beaten and left for dead by the villains, out of sheer anger that they merely kidnapped his friends, but flat out tried to KILL him. He even dons a mohawk-like set of spikes for the occasion.
  • Locked in a Freezer: Ben and Fred in the second movie.
  • Machine Blood: In the second film, Johnny 5 is leaking battery fluid after being damaged by the villains. His friend Ben outright says he's bleeding to death, and he even applies a makeshift tourniquet.
  • Magical Defibrillator: One such is used to recharge Johnny Five's dying battery.
  • Malaproper: Ben, constantly.
  • Miraculous Malfunction: The lightning strike that gives Number Five sentience.
  • Missed Him by That Much: Searching for the dying Johnny, Ben and the cops arrive at Radio Shack at the exact moment that Fred and Johnny exit the frame. This happens twice more during this sequence, though the final time Fred remained behind for Ben and the cops to find instead.
  • Mood Whiplash: Like the first film, Short Circuit 2 is a light comedy. That is, till the scene where Oscar has his goons brutally smash up Johnny 5 in near slow-motion. There's even a scene where one of the attackers is hit in the ass with a toy RC plane and goofily hobbles away, then the movie immediately cuts back to Johnny 5 dying on the sidewalk.
  • No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: Oscar and his men do this on Johnny in the second movie.
  • No Sympathy: Crosby taking No. 1 (without permission) on his hunt for No. 5, causing Howard to wet his drawers some more.
    Howard: Great! So instead of $11 million on the loose, we're going to have twenty-two!
    Ben: And plus we are needing gas money.
  • Oblivious to Love: Sandy, the woman representing the toy company Ben had a deal with, doesn't even notice his (poor) attempts at romancing her until Johnny bungles their date.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • Johnny 5's realization that disassemble equals death in the first film.
    • Fred's reaction in the sequel when Johnny realizes he is in a city, and Fred again when Johnny finds a bookstore.
    • Fred and Ben realizing that neither one of them knows Morse code.
    • Oscar's face right before Johnny runs his car off the road, somersaulting it into a parked van.
  • Odd Couple: Mild-mannered, scrupulous Ben and slovenly, amoral Fred.
  • An Odd Place to Sleep: Ben inherited the NOVA truck from the first movie and drove it to NYC. It doubles as his toy factory and living space. Even after Fred leases a warehouse, Ben continues to nap in a hammock in the truck (which is now parked indoors).
  • Operation: [Blank]: An army general at NOVA's launch party is already fantasizing about deploying SAINT robots to nuke Moscow. "We call it Operation Gotcha Last."
  • Opportunistic Bastard: When Sandy tries to make a lucrative deal to buy toys from Ben, Frank (who is just introducing himself to Ben) quickly cuts himself into the deal and talks up the price before Ben can figure out what's going on. On the other hand, it's only because of Frank that Ben gets the start-up money (albeit by visiting a Loan Shark) and factory space necessary to start production.
  • Parental Bonus: When stopped due to a tracking device in their truck the old couple immediately think about the "grass" they may or may not have in their glove compartment.
  • Pick Your Human Half: Johnny looks very machine like but acts very human.
  • Pig Latin: Used by the sequel's villains to fool Johnny — the one language he doesn't know how to translate. He's managed to work it out by the second time they try this trick on him.
    Johnny 5: Ew-scray ou-yay, ozo-bay.
  • Playing Cyrano: Johnny Five to Ben during the latter's date.
  • Porn Stash: Ben's "schematic drawings" that he offers to share with Newton.
  • Private Military Contractors: Skroeder and his men are private security but their numbers and equipment make them more like a small army. Somewhat justified in that Nova seem to be a major technology contractor for the US military.
  • Product Placement:
    • "Wouldn't You Like To Be a Pepper Too?"
    • Radio Shack doesn't just sell electronics. It SAVES LIVES.
  • Race Against the Clock: Fred, when repairing Johnny in Radio Shack.
    Fred: I can't do this, I'm no good at this stuff!
    Johnny: F-fifteen minutes you have to get good.
  • Re-Cut: When Short Circuit 2 plays on television, it cuts a lot of scenes for time. Many of the cut scenes are the ones where Johnny wanders around New York observing things for himself, including a scene where he trashes a bookstore. This is jarring because he refers to visiting a bookstore at least twice in later scenes.
  • Red Eyes, Take Warning: Probably originally meant for combat mode, Johnny's back-lit red "eyes" are usually a telltale sign you've managed to tick off the normally happy-go-lucky pacifist robot.
    • Ben and Newton discover Number Five is right at their location on the scanner while at the gas station—The back door of their truck.
      Number Five: Hello, BOZOS!
    • When Oscar's goons first attack him in the warehouse:
      Johnny Five: (catches crowbar midswing) Baaad humans!''
    • Later when prepping for his Roaring Rampage of Revenge:
      Johnny Five: Oh sure, kidnap the humans, destroy the machine! (fixes punk-like accessories to his body) Let's party.
  • Reference Overdosed: Johnny doesn't really know when to hold back. Then again, being as young as he is, he doesn't really have his own experiences to know anything beyond references.
  • Ridiculously Human Robots: Personality-wise, not appearance-wise.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: A relatively-nonviolent one being a good summation of the climax of the second film, with Johnny Five hunting down Oscar.
  • Robosexual: Number 5 hitting on Stephanie in the tub.
  • Rock Beats Laser: Johnny outwits his evil twins by deflecting their lasers with rocks and blinding them with mud. $11 million well spent, Pentagon.
  • Run for the Border: Oscar and his cronies devise a clever plot to smuggle the jewels into South America. Each one is hidden inside a cheap, plastic toy dinosaur; "Our gift to the Brazilian National Orphanage."
  • Running Gag: Skroeder seems rather obsessed with food...
    Skroeder: What I've got is trouble, which I don't need because my wife is at home cooking a steak that's going to be dried out by the time I get there!

    Skroeder: They're cooking something up, I can smell it. We've got to fry 'em now, Howard!

    Skroeder: How many kids you got, Doctor?
    Crosby: None.
    Skroeder: Well let me tell you I've got three of them. Three dandy little Skroeders, and I want them to be adults, not barbeques.
    • Number Five having to throw out the driver's seat from any vehicle he swipes.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here: After Johnny Five repairs his weapons after being captured, his escorts (Ben and a guard) are alarmed, pull over to the side of the road, and take off after a brief debate.
    Ben: I don't know about you, but I am planning to scream and run.
  • Secret Underground Passage: The tunnel connecting Ben's warehouse with a high-security bank vault.
  • Shout-Out: The movie playing on the TV (in the scene where Number Five and Stephanie dance) is Saturday Night Fever, one of John Badham's previous movies.
  • Shell Game: Johnny Five learns it from a street performer in Short Circuit 2.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: Rosy idealism.
  • Speaks in Shout-Outs: Johnny Five.
  • Stealth Pun: Probably unintentional, but in the second film, Johnny Five, the self-aware robot who insists he's alive, embraces the late Eighties street gang aesthetic when he begins his Roaring Rampage of Revenge. He uses bits from the Radio Shack Fred fixed him up in to fashion a mohawk, spikes, chains, and other electronic accoutrements that serve no purpose but to make him look edgy and cool. In otherwords, he becomes a Cyberpunk.
  • Starring Special Effects: Despite the films' relatively low budget, the animatronics used for Johnny Five were top of the line and very impressive for the time. He was designed by Blade Runner legend Syd Mead.
  • Stereotypical South Asian English: Part of Ben Jabituya's joke is that he speaks with such an exaggerated accent despite being born and raised in the US to American-born parents. The sequel retcons him into an Indian immigrant. Stevens researched the role quite extensively, hiring a dialect coach and even traveling to India to get the accent right, but today considers the role something of an Old Shame.
  • Strange-Syntax Speaker: Johnny after getting mutilated by Oscar's mooks.
  • Suicidal Overconfidence: Johnny heatedly goes after Oscar, ignoring the fatal gash in his battery. He doesn't bleed to death, but he cuts it pretty close.
    Fred: Come on now, man, these are serious guys! You're not in top form a-and your back-up battery's used up!?
    Johnny: Derf, a life-form's gotta do what a life-form's gotta do. Stand aside.
  • Super Prototype: While the SAINT robots never enter actual production, so we don't know how the production model would stack up to the prototypes, the prototypes certainly perform very well in their demonstration. And Johnny outperforms three of the prototypes when they come to try and collect him.
  • Super-Speed Reading: Johnny can breeze through books at a frightening rate, though apparently he's not programmed to re-shelve them. Set him loose in a bookstore and, well...
  • Super Strength: It's not overtly shown in the first film, as Johnny 5 rarely ever uses his physical strength, but the sequel shows he's far stronger than a human and capable of benchpressing a car and easily overpowering multiple humans at once.
  • Symbolic Blood: As Oscar's henchmen attempt to destroy Johnny 5, either battery acid or hydraulic fluid splashes on one of the goons.
  • Tank-Tread Mecha: Johnny 5 and the other S.A.I.N.T. robots use tank treads to move around.
  • Technical Euphemism: The robot whom the story revolves around accidentally squishes a grasshopper and wants it reassembled. He's told that it can't be done because it's dead and dead is forever. Later, when one of his human friends is being shot at by the villains, he freaks out and screams over and over, "No disassemble Stephanie! No disassemble Stephanie!"
  • Technical Pacifist: Johnny Five was created as a military robot, but decides that killing is wrong. He'll defend himself as necessary, using exactly as much force as required and no more. In the first film, armed with a laser weapon that can stop tanks, he uses very precise, low-power shots to distract opponents or render them incapable of harm, as when he cuts apart the drive shaft Frank was weilding. Ultimately, he prefers not to use his laser at all, subduing the three SAINT prototypes sent to recapture him by using the environment to incapacitate them then turning them off. By the second film, he's uninstalled his laser completely, and defends himself with his attached gadgets, robotic strength, and primarily his wits.
    Number 5: Is wrong. Incorrect. Newton Crosby, Ph.D., not know this?
    Crosby: Well, of course I know it's wrong to kill, but who told you?
    Number 5: I told me.
  • Then Let Me Be Evil: Not evil of course, but Johnny 5 spends a large part of the second movie trying to be human. After Oscar's henchmen smash him up and leave him for dead, Johnny finally decides he's had enough of that fruitless project because, if humans are going to mistreat him that badly, he doesn't need to be human.
    Johnny: Am not human, but am a life form!
  • They Would Cut You Up: "NO DISASSEMBLE!"
  • Three Stooges Shout-Out: Johnny Five re-programmed three of the pursuing prototypes in the first film so they acted like Larry, Moe, and Curly.
  • Tinman Typist: Justified. One of Newton's side projects is teaching robots to play piano. And give the finger.
  • Trail of Blood: While it's not technically blood, near the end of the second film, Johnny 5 suffers damage to his battery before going on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge, forcing the rest of the protagonists to follow the trail of battery acid and help him.
  • Trampled Underfoot:
    • The opening shot shows a tank running over flowers.
    • Number 5 learns about death when he accidentally tramples a grasshopper.
  • Turing Test: Used by Crosby to determine if Number 5 is alive. The Ink Blot Test and the fact that Number 5 has rewired his switches to a point where he shouldn't be operable begins Crosby's questioning that it's true but it takes a bad joke to convince him when Number 5 laughs at the joke.
  • Unwitting Pawn: Johnny, in the second movie. Twice. In the beginning he steals just about a dozen car radios after being deceived by a gang to believe that he was helping them do their jobs as the "Department of Car Stereo Repair"; and later when Oscar tricks him into digging into the bank vault, thinking it was to create a safe place for Ben. Don't worry, he fixes it.
    • Skroeder uses Newton Crosby as one of these in the first film:
      Crosby: Let me tell you something: I don't like those N.O.V.A. guys any more than you do. In fact, I don't care if they ever get Number 5 back, but I want to see it.
      Stephanie: If I show you where he is, do I have your word you will not experiment on him, you will not flip the switches and you will not take him apart?
      Crosby: Absolutely, you have my word.
      Stephanie: Okay, he's out back, I'll take you to him.
      Skroeder: Well, while you're at it, young lady, you can take me, too.
      Crosby [shocked] Skroeder!
      Skroeder: Terrific job, Crosby, thanks for the help.
      Crosby: No! I had nothing to do with this!
      Stephanie: You bastard, you're a liar!
  • Verbal Tic: Johnny Five likes to list synonyms of words. This can be surprisingly bad-ass when he's really ticked off
    Number 5: Number 5 furious! Livid! PERTURBED!
    Number 5: Colt .45, semi-automatic (he crushes it) play-doh.
  • Violently Protective Girl Friend: Maybe not violent, but Sandy takes a level in badass when she believes Ben is in trouble, impressively decoding his voiceless-phone messages to use as directions, and demanding that the taxi driver break the law to move faster.
    Sandy: If we get a ticket, I'll pay for it!
  • Villain Has a Point: Skroeder is adamant about destroying Number Five at all costs and deliberately undermines and steps on the toes of others who are working on a less militant and violent approach. The truth is that the SAINT robots have MILITARY applications with a fully active laser cannon, you can even see the Oh, Crap! look on their faces when they realize he can use it freely. While the audience gets the benefit of seeing how benign and childlike Number Five is, the team they send in do end up provoking Number Five into a laser response. At the time who knows what else might have provoked the same reaction.
    Howard: Crosby, what is it going to do?
    Newton: It's hard to say; it's malfunctioning. It might not do anything.
    Skroeder: But it could decide to blow away anything that moves, couldn't it?
  • Voice Changeling: Johnny, like most self-aware robots from the Eighties, can mimic anyone's voice.
  • We Used to Be Friends: Newton calls out Howard Marner on this, claiming that back when they were both scientists, Howard would have realized the value of Johnny Five's sentience. Howard bluntly replies, "I'm a businessman. I'm not a scientist anymore." (The insanely high value that true AI would have seems to be lost on him, however).
  • Wham Shot: In Short Circuit 2, there's the maiming scene: Johnny has gotten the drop on Oscar, popping down from a tree to grab him. Oscar's goons show up and (with prompting in pig latin from Oscar) circle around Johnny... and the one wielding a crowbar chops into Johnny's back, causing an explosion of electrical sparks as he's dislodged from the tree. And it doesn't end there.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?:
    • SAINT Number 4 is never seen after the introductory scene.
    • It's never explained what happened to the loan shark Fred talked to after in the pool scene, though it's possible Fred already paid him after he got paid for the toy robots.
    • We never hear of Los Locos again after Johnny helped them rip the radios off the cars.
  • What Measure Is a Non-Human?: It takes a lot of convincing before the human leads will concede that Number Five is alive and not Just a Machine. This is the main moral premise of both films, leading to the end of the second movie in which Johnny is publicly declared a sentient being and made a citizen of the United States. Tellingly, when forced to fight off an ambush by three other prototypes like himself (but not alive in the way Johnny is), he still does not fire on them or destroy them, simply incapacitating then deactivating them.
  • What the Hell Is That Accent?: Lampshaded when Newton asks Ben where he's from, and when he finds out it's Bakersfield asks where his parents are from. "Pittsburgh."
  • Who's on First?: Stephanie and Number 5 in the first movie:
    Number 5: N.O.V.A. robotics disassemble, dead! Disassemble, Number 5 dead!
    Stephanie: But you can't die, you're a machine!
    Number 5: No.
    Stephanie: No, you're not a machine?
    Number 5: Yes.
    Stephanie: Yes you are, or yes you're not?
    Number 5: Yes—
    Stephanie: "Yes" what?
    Number 5: Yes... not.
  • Willfully Weak: Johnny 5 is a military robot designed for combat. He has an anti-tank laser on his shoulder and could easily fry people and is shown in the sequel to be powerful enough to benchpress a car even in a badly damaged, weakened state. He could very easily kill people with little effort if he felt like it, but after realizing 'disassembling' people is wrong, he refuses to use lethal force and only uses as much force as he needs to when forced to fight.
  • Wild Goose Chase: Number 5 notices his Tracking Device and throws it into the pick up truck of an elderly couple. The soldiers in pursuit of him find the couple instead.
    Wife: (gasps as dozens of soldiers aim their guns at them) I hope you took the grass out of the glove compartment!
    Husband: (as a very puzzled NOVA security guard walks up to the driver's side window) ... anything wrong, officer?
  • Wrong Genre Savvy: Skroeder's actions and attitude throughout the original movie would all be completely within reason - if this were a sci-fi thriller, rather than a family comedy.
  • You Are Number Five: He starts as just a number, but gives himself the name Johnny Five. Ben calls him "Number Johnny Five".
  • You Can Barely Stand: discussed in the second movie after Five decides he's repaired enough to get revenge.
    Fred: Wait a minute J5, waddaya think you're gonna do?
    Five: Pursue...capture...incarcerate!
    Fred: Come on now man, these are serious guys! You're not in top form, your backup battery's used up...!
    Five: I'm okay-kay. Just a few billion-billion bugs bugging the works out-in-out-in. Perfectly functionality. Functionality!
    Fred: Yeah, sure! Listen to yourself, you can't even talk straight!
    Five(picking Fred up by the collar): derF, a lifeform's gotta do what a lifeform's gotta do. Stand aside.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: After NOVA security and the Army blow up what they think is Johnny Five and celebrate, Marner's Tranquil Fury at having years of research and funding sent down the drain, along with Skroeder's unrepentant reply of how he was only doing his job, force Marner to hint that Skroeder's days serving NOVA are through. Skroeder's facial response after hearing it clearly shows he's thinking "I'm fired, aren't I?"
    • Also happens to Johnny Five in the sequel once he's gotten Oscar into the vault.
  • Your Mom:
    • Invoked in the first movie as a taunt to Number Five's pursuers.
      Number Five: Hey, laser lips! Your momma was a snowblower! (makes a digital Bronx cheer)
    • And in the second:
      Johnny Five: "Tu mama hace el amor con mi perro." Your mother makes love with my dog.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Short Circuit 2


Short Circuit opening

The opening sequence of Short Circuit shows the construction process of the S.A.I.N.T. robot line.

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