Short Circuit 2

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Short Circuit 2
Short circuit two ver2.jpg
Promotional one-sheet poster.
Directed by Kenneth Johnson
Produced by David Foster
Gary Foster
Lawrence Turman
Written by Brent Maddock
S.S. Wilson
Music by Charles Fox
Jim Steinman (song: "Holding Out for a Hero")
Cinematography John McPher
Edited by Conrad Buff
The Turman-Foster Company
Distributed by TriStar Pictures
Release dates
  • July 6, 1988 (1988-07-06)
Running time
110 min
Country United States
Language English
Box office $21.6 million (domestic)[1]

Short Circuit 2 is an American 1988 comic science fiction film, the sequel to 1986's film Short Circuit. It was directed by Kenneth Johnson, and starred Fisher Stevens as Ben Jahveri,[2] Michael McKean as Fred Ritter, Cynthia Gibb as Sandy Banatoni, and Tim Blaney as the voice of Johnny 5 (the main character – a friendly, naive, self-aware robot). Filming for this film took place in downtown Toronto, Ontario, Canada.


Benjamin Jahrvi (Fisher Stevens), now unemployed, is peddling sophisticated toy robots that he makes himself by hand on the street corners of New York City. One robot wanders away from his stand and by chance makes its way into the office of Sandy Banatoni (Cynthia Gibb), a scout for a major toy company. Sandy tracks Ben down and orders 1,000 of his toys. Overhearing this offer is con artist Fred Ritter (Michael McKean), who smooth-talks his way into becoming Ben's business partner in the deal and later acquires the funding Ben needs to get his assembly line started from a loan shark.

Ben & Fred move into a derelict warehouse which is revealed to be the base of operations for a pair of thieves who are tunneling into a bank vault across the street to steal a set of jewels known as the Vanderveer Collection. The thieves attack Ben and Fred, scare off their hired workers and destroy their equipment, preventing them from completing Sandy's order. However, Ben's friends Stephanie and Newton have sent Ben Johnny 5, a human-sized sentient robot whom Ben helped to create and whom his toys are based upon. Johnny quickly assembles one toy, and is pleased to see it is a tiny version of himself. When the thieves return, Johnny is able to successfully defend against them, then later sets up self-defense mechanisms should they try to break in. Johnny sets to work mass producing the toys in order to meet Sandy's deadline. With the place safe from the thieves and Johnny 5 working diligently, Ben is able to take advantage of his free time to study for his upcoming U.S. citizenship test.

Considering Johnny's thirst for data, Fred is sworn not to reveal their location to Johnny, believing that the robot would become over-excited as he has only ever know a life in the quiet countryside. However, Fred accidentally reveals their location and Johnny leaves the warehouse to explore the city. He has many misadventures and runs afoul of many New Yorkers, who are rude and unfriendly towards him. However, he befriends one man, Oscar Baldwin (Jack Weston), who happens to work at the bank across the street from Ben & Fred's warehouse.

Fred, having learned that Johnny is worth $11,002,076.17, tries to sell the robot to a few businessmen. Upon discovering this, Johnny escapes into the city, where, after more misadventures, he is eventually taken into custody by the police for being a public nuisance. However, the police sergeant says nonliving things cannot commit crimes, and places Johnny 5 in the stolen goods warehouse, where he is claimed by Ben. Ben, seeing that Johnny 5 had copies of the books Pinocchio and Frankenstein, feels that Johnny 5 struggles with his sentience. Johnny uses his robotic abilities to help Ben court Sandy.

With time running out before the Vanderveer Collection is moved from the bank, the thieves lock Ben and Fred in the freezer of a Chinese restaurant. It is revealed that Oscar is actually the mastermind of the heist. With Ben and Fred out of the way, Oscar is able to trick Johnny into finishing the tunnel leading to the vault, which he is able to do at fantastic speed. Ben and Fred manage to get Sandy to come and save them, using polyphonic renditions of songs that Ben learned on his date with her as clues to their location. Having discovered the Vanderveer Collection, Johnny deduces Oscar's true intentions but is pursued and attacked by the thieves. Johnny is able to scare the thieves away with remote controlled planes, but not before they severely damage him, leaving him with only 2 hours of emergency power in which he must receive life-saving repairs.

Sandy locates and releases Ben and Fred and shortly after, Ben and Sandy are arrested by the police for the robbery. They are then later released by the 2 police officers who found Johnny earlier after they discover who the real robber is. After a long search, Fred, who managed to escape from the police, finds Johnny in an alley. As Johnny's remaining power reserve won't last long enough for Fred to retrieve Ben, Fred, despite his lack of technical knowledge, must attempt to repair Johnny himself, which he does so by breaking into a hardware store and follows Johnny's guidance. Enraged upon learning that the criminals tried to destroy him, whilst Ben and Fred were simply locked away, Johnny vows revenge stating "Sure, kidnap the humans, destroy the machine!"

Johnny then proceeds to track and locate Oscar and traps his accomplices. However, Oscar himself flees and steals a boat. Johnny, now even more enraged, uses a dockside crane to capture Oscar, who is caught and deprived of the stolen collection. Johnny's main power supply, which was damaged in the earlier attack by Oscar's thugs but later partially repaired by Fred has now run dry. Ben arrives just as Johnny appears to shut down (die), but is able to keep Johnny alive using the power of a defibrillator he steals from a paramedic.

Later scenes show Johnny as a celebrity and Sandy, Ben, and Fred establishing a large business called Input Incorporated, presumably to mass-manufacture Ben's toys, using Johnny 5 as the mascot. The film concludes with Ben and Johnny, now fully repaired and gold-plated, becoming US citizens. Asked about his new status by reporters, Johnny enthusiastically jumps into the air, shouting that he feels "alive!".



The film received mostly mixed reviews at the time of release. It is rated 38% on Rotten Tomatoes.[3] The NY Times Vincent Canby gave it a negative review. He wrote "For anyone over the age of 6, the film is as much fun as wearing wet sneakers." [4] Rita Kempley of the The Washington Post gave a mixed to positive review (6/10) with qualifiers saying "Short Circuit 2" is unabashedly mawkish and sophomoric, and the actors support the technology. But if you're a kid, or an adult with an Erector Set, you might just enjoy this summer-weight caper.[5] Most of the positive reviews in fact were nice but accepting of the film's obvious flaws. Variety added "Mild and meek, Short Circuit 2 has an uncomplicated sweetness as a successful followup to the original robot kiddie comedy."[6] Siskel & Ebert, having disliked the first film, gave the film "two thumbs up" and called the film "even better than the original."[7] In a 1988 Los Angeles Times article, the review noted that "Wilson and Maddock have improved considerably here....Their construction is more deft, their dialogue is better, and they make Number Five come more alive..."[8]

At the boxoffice, Short Circuit 2 disappointed, landing in 7th place on its first weekend making only $3,843,067. It went on to finish with $21,630,088. That was down almost half of what the first Short Circuit made. It ranked 45th at the U.S. Box office for 1988. [9]

Paul Barber of the Courier-Journal stated that "The movie had the same aurora of the original, but none of the magic that Steve Guttenburg brought which really hurt the overall movie." [10]

Awards and nominations[edit]

  • Honored with the Winsor McCay Award [for career achievement]
Award Category Recipient(s) Outcome
Saturn Awards
Best Science Fiction Film Nominated
Best Special Effects Eric Allard, Jeff Jarvis Nominated

DVD release[edit]

Short Circuit 2 was re-released on DVD on April 24, 2007,[7] which included a "making-of featurette" on actor Fisher Stevens. In 2010, the film was released once again with alternative cover-art. A Blu-ray disc of the film was also released in April 2011, though no extras were included.

Hot Cars, Cold Facts[edit]

Hot Cars, Cold Facts, made in 1990, is a short educational film featuring the Johnny 5 character, voiced by Russell Turner. It also starred Gina Revarra as Lisa, John Hugh as Officer Dave and Donald Bishop as Howard. The film takes place after Short Circuit 2.


External links[edit]