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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Sometimes I wish Steven Spielberg didn't always look to the stars for
salvation. In recent years, he's made a concerted effort to rein in
some of his wish-fulfilment fantasies when making SF. With mixed
success. Minority Report is probably the best of his recent films. It
represented a more grittier side to Spielberg that doesn't often
surface. AI had great potential but Spielberg forgot what the story was
supposed to be about, and indulged his saccharine side to the detriment
of the film.
Of course back in the 80s, one of Spielberg's favourite themes was the idea of friendly aliens coming into contact with the human race. First was Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Then the inexplicable success of ET. And then the likes of Batteries Not Included.
Now Batteries Not Included wasn't directed by Spielberg. In fact it was one of several that he produced. Films like this, and Gremlins and Back to the Future. All films that were directed by other people but undoubtedly have his sensibilities stamped on them. And indeed in the case of BNI, we once again have a fable about benevolent aliens straightening out our lives.
BNI is by no means a bad film. Its quite likable. But it can't shake a certain predictability that dogs the story throughout. Instead of ET befriending a lonely boy, we have a group of disparate people living in a tenement block that faces demolition. The cast is not bad either. Real life husband and wife Hume Cronyn and Jessica Tandy are great as Frank and Faye Riley, the elderly couple pressured to leave their home to make way for an office block.
We also have Elizabeth Pena's pregnant girl, Dennis Boutsikaris's struggling artist, and Frank McRae's gentle giant of a boxer. All people who have just about given up on themselves. Frank and Faye's situation is not helped by Faye lost in her own senility. Reliving the glory days when her son Bobby was alive and they still lived in a happy home. A desperate Frank prays for a miracle.
And a miracle comes in the form of tiny spaceships. Multi-purpose flying machines that have a knack for fixing broken things. Both mechanically and spiritually. As the boarders band together, and the flying saucers fix up their building, they begin to get back some of the self-respect they've lost over time. And in return, the ships get the chance to start a family of their own. By using bits and bobs from the building to make more of their kind.
What lifts a potentially hum-drum story out of the doldrums is the effects and ideas that went into creating the aliens in this film. The aliens in Batteries Not Included are fairly unique. I've never seen in any other story aliens that resemble the ones in this film. Brad Bird was on the writing staff. A man responsible for excellent work like The Iron Giant and The Incredibles. And I'm sure he came up with some fantastic ideas here too.
The chief pleasure of BNI is the way the tiny spaceships actually seem like living beings. The filmmakers do a great job of making them recognisably male and female. They have all kinds of implements for every situation. Everything from miniature cutting saws to personal electrical plugs. And they can even have children. The writers quite astonishingly make the 'courting' scenes between the saucers actually seem romantic. They glide through the air with all the grace of a couple of ballroom dancers.
Really, any scene with the ships is a delight. Like the Mother Ship giving her children flying lessons. Or learning to flip burgers in the Riley's restaurant. Being a Spielberg film, the effects are not surprisingly top notch. They haven't lost any of their sparkle over the years, and the ships soar through the air without any signs of creakiness or shoddiness.
The cast all give quite competent performances but if truth be told are upstaged whenever the ships are around. As things draw to a close, the sentimentality meter starts to lurch dangerously into the red. One of the ships being damaged recalls the sickly tone of the dire Short Circuit 2. Or the building being razed to the ground only to be rebuilt by a whole fleet of tiny ships is a bit hard to swallow. Although that scene where the sky is filled with seemingly hundreds of them is quite a sight to see.
I don't completely buy into the ending that a whole bunch of skyscrapers would be built around that tenement building instead of over it, but nonetheless, Batteries Not Included provides quite an entertaining mix. It has a charm that carries it along. And it might even convince you to sleep with the window open for any late night visitors.
If I had to describe this movie in one word, it would be "sweet." You
have to be human to appreciate such sentiment, but I imagine some
non-human beings may enjoy it also. What I mean to say is that this
story deals with human emotion. Although this is a fantasy, the
emotions it deals with are very real.
We see an old couple on the verge of despair, as the evil developers threaten to rob them of their last piece of security, their home. Jessica Tandy, whom we have already grown to love in "Driving Miss Daisy" and "Cocoon" (and don't forget "The Birds" from 1963!) is Faye Riley, a pitiful old woman who is losing her mind. Her husband, Frank (played by Hume Cronyn) in his deepest and darkest hour, cries out for deliverance. Before he falls asleep, we see the answer to his prayer arrive.
I am sure that some Christians may not like that the prayers of a poor old man are answered by funny mechanical beings, but I'm also sure that most will agree that God works in mysterious ways. The timing of the arrival is surely deliberate. These people need a miracle, and that is what they get.
Hope for the few remaining tenants reside in the friendship they develop with tiny flying mechanical creatures, which demonstrate intelligence and good will. Besides proving that even machines can be cute, they also prove that faith is a powerful ally to have on your side, which is strong enough to stand up to the evils of the world.
Sentimental? You bet! This is NOT a fault! (Say it with me, people!) This is what makes the story special.
It is never explained to the audience what these beings are, or what planet, dimension, or reality they are from. But for the people who benefit from their friendship, that doesn't matter. What matters is that they get the help they need, just in time to save their only home from being destroyed.
And the way this plan works out makes good commentary on the goodness of all the people involved, as well as some delightful entertainment.
Equally important as Frank and Faye is Harry, a simple minded but good natured man who fixes things. Played by Frank McRaye, he earns the love and appreciation of his peers as he figures out how to serve the needs of their newfound friends.
If you have heart strings, this movie, and all the actors in it, will surely pluck at them. If you are a robot, then I hope this movie serves as an example of how good a mechanical life form can be.
See this movie. You'll be glad you did.
I remember renting this video back when it first came out on vhs. Not only is it the same few people from cacoon that do a great job but the entire cast does as well. Everyone should enjoy this light hearted fun film for all ages. Enjoy!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This is, quite possibly, Spielberg's best film. 'E.T.: The
Extraterrestrial', 'Close Encounters of the Third Kind', 'Jaws'; all
good films, but as far as family entertainment goes you can't go past
this little gem.
The plot is fairly straightforward. An elderly couple, a struggling artist, a pregnant woman and a former boxer are the last few residents in an apartment building on the verge of being bulldozed by a greedy property developer. They need a miracle. Their prayers are answered by these 'little guys' (flying alien robot dudes :P), who like to fix things and have come to Earth to make teeny little robots of their own (hooray!) and generally make life a whole lot better for the residents and bring them all together.
I first saw this film when I was 10, and I've loved it ever since. It's hard to believe that a film like this has been left stagnating for years without anyone knowing about it. This film makes me laugh and cry even today. The characters are likable and both Hume Cronyn and Jessica Tandy turn in believable (and wonderful) performances as Frank and Faye Riley. You can't call yourself a Spielberg aficionado until you've seen this film. Great fun for all ages. A must see!
Heart warming fun nostalgic adventure romp between evil developer,
residents of a period piece building and ... "batteries not included."
It all starts with tenants occupying their last vestige of memories and
hope in a large city grown cold to their past tradition and history.
The tenants are brought to the end of their rope until ... (see the
The entire cast was made for each other. From Hume Cronyn as Frank Riley, and Owner Riley's Cafe; Jessica Tandy as Faye Riley (Frank's wife); Frank McRae as ex-fighter Harry Noble; Elizabeth Peña as the beautiful and warm Seniorita Marisa Esteval; Michael Carmine as the not-so-evil Carlos; and last but not least, Dennis Boutsikaris as the struggling artist Mason Baylor. They all performed their roles as if they worked together for years.
The movie itself had an excellent mix of the old with the new. If you have a heart, then this movie is a must see for all members of the family. 10/10
I rented this movie on a tape way back in 1990 from the local store. I
watched it with a couple of my cousins. Even now when we get together,
we talk about this movie.
The movie is so simple. Like Oscar Wilde's short stories. It doesn't jolt you or thrill you. It moves you. So you remember it for a long time to come.
Most of the scenes have faded from my mind's screen but the feeling lingers. Like the cookies my Granny used to bake.
Three things that make this movie my favorite: The story (no one has tried to make it complicated). The characters (People we see every day especially in the 80's). The Aliens (I wouldn't want to call them that!).
Do I want to watch it once again? Yes, but I might not. I'm afraid my grown-up mind would put on a critic's glass and the magic might get lost.
"Batteries not Included" definitely had Charm! Or else I wouldn't be searching for it on the net and writing my comment when I have hundreds of things to do.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
There's certainly no doubt that Steven Spielberg has a thing for aliens
and robots. He's done Close Encounters of the Third Kind, E.T., A.I.,
War of the Worlds, and so forth. Here, in *batteries not included, he
is just the executive producer (thus, "Steven Spielberg presents"). In
this particular case though, does it really matter who the actual
director is or isn't? I'm going to lean towards probably not.
In *batteries not included, a greedy developer (Michael Greene) uses a group of lowlifes -- led by Carlos (Michael Carmine) -- to rid an old apartment building of its last few renters through intimidation, as well as offering them some cash. The renters include a couple in probably their 70s or so (Hume Cronyn and Jessica Tandy), a pregnant woman living on her own (Elizabeth Peña), a struggling artist (Dennis Boutsikaris), and a retired professional boxer (Frank McRae). Naturally, none of them want to move out; but with thugs creating havoc, demolition crews outside waiting for the green light, and policemen who won't be of any assistance, there obviously doesn't seem to be a whole lot of hope.
Then one night, the prayers and wishes of the renters come true -- in the form of cute alien robots (or at least that's what I assume they are). They basically look like tiny spacecrafts or UFOs, except there aren't any alien creatures inside piloting them. They power themselves up via electrical wall outlets, and they apparently consume all sorts of things that one could find in a toolbox or hardware store (nails, screws, whatever). Why exactly are these alien robots here though? In E.T., the title character was unfortunately left behind on earth, and his goal was to get back home. These alien robots, however, don't really have much of a story. They're just here -- coincidentally -- at this New York City apartment, and ready to help the hopeless renters out in any way possible (this includes working in the kitchen of a diner). There really isn't much more to the movie than that. It's essentially just another Hollywood story of good triumphing over evil -- but with cute alien robots.
In regards to an overall star rating, if you grew up with this film (as many people did in the '80s), and there's some sort of nostalgia value to it, this might be pretty close to being a classic (in the sci-fi/family-comedy genre). If you're in my shoes, on the other hand, and there is honestly zero nostalgia value, then four out of ten stars seems to be fair.
This movie will definitely make you suspend reality and take a trip
inside some imaginative fun, where five tenants faces eviction when
their beloved apartment is about to be demolished. The developers hire
a local gang to force them to leave, but, visiting outer space aliens
in the form of miniature flying saucers visit the tenants and use their
powers to help them.
I remember watching this movie on and off when I was a kid and really enjoyed seeing those miniature flying saucers mingling in with the humans and helping them in any way they can. The special effects team did a great job in making the aliens believable and Matthew Robbins did a pretty nice job directing, keeping the story going at a fairly fast pace, though, the plot is pretty basic with few twists.
Hume Cronyn and Jessica Tandy had great chemistry together and made great character leads. I did, though, wished more emphasis were placed on Michael Carmine and Elizabeth Pena and wished there were a little more action coming from the aliens. It would have made the plot a bit more exciting.
But, overall, this is still a pretty nice film and is fine for the entire family. It is imaginative and out-of-this-world, but will make you have faith in miracles.
Apartment block tenants seek the aid of alien mechanical life-forms to save their building from demolition. My first impression: From an artistic standpoint, there were some plot elements and character developments I didn't think were totally needed. They do however drive the story, which seemed to be their purpose, so I can accept them. My second impression: It will bring you to tears and make you laugh. My third impression: The acting is very effective. And finally, my fourth impression: This kind of sentimental character piece needs a tight focus so all of the nuances of the characters shine through. The characters in this film have a lot of depth, and that makes all the difference.
Many reviewers have fond memories of this work, and I have to admit
that I do find this quite fun, but there are moments herein which are
quite tense and mean, and lead to an overall bittersweetness which
permeates the work. I blame that completely on Mick Garris. This work
could have been great if it weren't for his inclusion of the "bd guy"
element. This work did not need such a device, and it severely took
away from the beauty of the work.
Mick Garris has been single-handedly responsible for the bastardization of most of the Stephen King film adaptations.
Directed by Matthew Robbins (Close Encounters writer) and Exec'd by Steven Spielberg, you may appropriately expect a small amount of awe generated by the beautiful effects and the endearing characters. *batteries not included does deliver. Also, these actors were a sure thing. I am sure you'll remember most of them from Ron Howard's Cocoon.
If you enjoy Cocoon or High Spirits, I would suggest this.
It rates a 6.7/10 from...
the Fiend :.
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