Not Quite Human (1987) — Clearly robotic kid fools the entire world

“I won’t worry, Dad. I don’t know how.”

Justin’s rating: 1011011

Justin’s review: I’m not just convinced that the 1980s had superior view and execution of science fiction in its movies, but it also dominated in kids literature. I have many fond memories of loading up with armfuls of scifi kids books from the library and enjoying whatever crazy ideas authors got back then. Among these books was a fun six-part series called Not Quite Human in which a scientist creates an android son that ends up passing off as more human than Star Trek’s Data.

Yes, it was Small Wonder, but better. I mean, it’d have to be, right?

As a fan of the books, you can imagine how ecstatic I was that Disney made not one, not two, but three films based on them. Disney was doing stuff like this all the time for its TV series.

I’ve pointed out before that the prevailing attitude in ’80s movies about computers and robots is that they could do anything short of — and perhaps even in excess of — magic. Nobody was questioning whatever writers came up with, because who really knew if these sorts of things was possible? So let us not scoff too greatly that widower toy scientist Jonas Carson (Growing Pains’ Alan Thicke) decided that it was entirely possible to construct a lifelike android teen to fill the void in his life — and actually pull it off.

Carson’s “son” Chip (Jay Underwood) comes online and starts his journey to becoming an integrated member of a family — and society. His appearance comes as a slight shock to Carson’s daughter Becky (Robyn Lively), who now has an older brother that can bench press cars and interprets everything super literally. But before long, Becky becomes Chip’s guide to the human world as he enrolls in high school and hopefully doesn’t accidentally kill scores of his classmates when someone spills water on his motherboard.

Becky’s actually more peeved that her dad’s decided that they all have to move to give Chip a fresh start at a high school with her. But Carson sees it as important to keep his breakthrough out of the hands of his evil boss. You know, who runs a toy corporation.

So Chip’s got to fit into high school on one hand and evade Carson’s boss on the other. Carson goes undercover as a science teacher at the school to help keep tabs on his creation.

As a walking piece of science fiction, Chip is laughably dated. He’s got an “internal radio” to talk to his dad, a power plug in his ankle, a thermostat in his finger, a worse power supply than a two-year-old iPhone, and a switch in his armpit that speeds him up to Looney Tunes levels.

All of the kids in Chip’s school instantly find him neat-o and rad and groovy because he starts getting on the nerve of all of the teachers and bullies with his literal-minded puns. I suppose being this mild of a jerk is all it takes to capture the heart of all nearby teenyboppers.

Not Quite Human is a breezy watch that is helped by really likable characters in Carson, Becky, and Chip. I like how Underwood gives Chip a twitchy naiveté that serves as an always-ready joke platform. It’s also quite the product of the time, albeit very bland and family friendly. No Breakfast Club meltdowns here, at least.

Didja notice?

  • The super-computery opening graphics
  • Yes, this is the kind of movie where the soundtrack is going to let you know very clearly when a joke was made
  • Dot matrix printer alert!
  • You know someone is a bad guy when he has guns all over his office wall
  • Putting a speed control for an android on the outside is not a good idea
  • “It’s a three-twerp family” is my new go-to saying
  • Chip is very chipper about the prospect of being exploded
  • Chip can eat. And probably poo.
  • A “getting settled in” montage
  • Hey, it’s the high school from Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure
  • “I’d like a barf burger please”
  • Chip’s recitation of the whole script from lunch
  • That’s one fake mustache

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