Heartbeeps (1981) — Scarier than Freddy, Jason, and Chucky combined

“It’s all right, Rover. These friendly robots are obviously not mischievous trespassers.”

Justin’s rating: Does Not Compute; goto end.

Justin’s review: For some reason, mentioning Andy Kaufman in a crowded room will cause grown men and women to soil their underthings in nostalgic excitement for one of the best comedic actors of all time. Misunderstood, of course. Not appreciated in his era, etcetera etcetera. The sad truth is, aside from a decent stint on TV’s “Taxi,” Kaufman’s enduring legacy is a dumb SNL skit involving mostly not singing a song, picking a wrestling match with a guy who creamed him, and dying.

For this robust résumé, people have been fawning all over him for the past few decades. Yeah. Okay. To that I rebut, “You must watch Heartbeeps.”

Heartbeeps is one of those movies that reeks of putrid failure from the first minute on, practically daring you to make it through the whole thing. And you do, just so that you can complain about it later. You will ask yourself “What were they THINKING?” so often that it’ll become a rhythmic Caribbean chant in your head. You might even need counseling or a stiff drink after.

The basic — and it IS basic — premise of Heartbeeps is that in the “near” future two somewhat-advanced robots meet in a repair warehouse and decide to wander off. The wandering part happens only after fifteen minutes of two characters standing mostly still and bouncing the world’s dumbest conversation back and forth (about sunsets and rainbows and social situations). Then, the rest of the film is comprised of their group (the two robots, plus a comedian robot and a baby robot they created) meadering about the woods until they run out of power and decide to wander back home. There’s also some very lackluster attempt at conflict by having people and an overeager Crimebuster robot chasing them. The end.

I guess this is supposed to be a charming and unique love tale that focuses on two robots smooching, but there’s only so much coy computer-talk a man can take before vomit becomes a reality. It’s like they took normal, inane dialogue, and ran it through a machine that turns it into computer-robot-talk that makes baby Yoda cry. “Let’s go up the hill” becomes “Do not forget to activate your servo-walking mechanisms to traverse vertically in this sector” and soforth.

Then there are the robots themselves. They probably have to be seen to be believed, so give that header picture a 30-second stare. Terrifying, yes? You can see the general idea was to make the robots resemble the humans actors, but the end result is a thick, unappealing layer of plastic from which you can see human eyes screaming for release. Simply put, they are stiff, chunky, annoying, and creepy. No part of me as a human being wishes to view upon their forms for a second longer than necessary, and there’s no way in the seven hells that you know about and the two secret ones I learned about last week that I’d actually wish for these two robots to fall in love and make robot babies. Yet, they do.

Director Allan Arkush makes a mish-mash out of everything this movie touches — romance, comedy, science fiction, a basic understanding of what will turn most every person off and force them to flee the theater in revulsion. Even the name of the film causes us to question our faith in Hollywood.

Perhaps — and this is going so far out on a limb that squirrels call me crazy — very small children might find the nutzy robots entertaining. As creepy as I find these robots to be, I think that the only way this movie could’ve redeemed itself is if the director decided to take this Care Bear experience and turn it into a pure horror film where kids are being stalked and killed by the unnerving-looking robot helpers their parents bought. Put that in your pants and smoke it!

Didja notice?

  • It’s RoboCop’s grampa!
  • And it kills a stump?
  • If you built a robot, would you give it a double chin?
  • When she blinks, her eyes make a noise
  • 15 freaking minutes of two robots standing on a shelf. 15 minutes.
  • Robot theology
  • Robots + bunnies = ?
  • Bears are robots’ natural enemy
  • I do NOT need to know about a robot’s “pleasure center”
  • Coors comes in bags now?
  • Brando Andexler reports, “Jerry Garcia produced all of the cooing beeping baby noises for the baby robot”

One comment

  1. It was one of two contenders for the first ever Best Makeup Oscar. The other was An American Werewolf in London. You can probably guess on the spot which one won.

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