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I must admit, I was a kid when this movie came out, but I never saw it
as a kid. I watched it for the first time today--with 20 intervening
years since the film came out. And I think that perspective shines a
new light into this old chestnut.
If you'll look at the writing credits, you'll notice that the head writer is none other than one Brad Bird, who today works for Pixar. *Batteries Not Included might be sappy for a Spielberg flick, but it is right on target for Brad Bird. Rather than comparing it to E.T. or Cocoon, this movie is more properly compared to The Iron Giant and Toy Story--two movies that successfully bring out the humanity in inanimate objects.
If this movie came out in 2007 instead of 1987, you'd probably see a Pixar logo on the trailer. For now, just pretend it's computer animated and enjoy the show!
Good vs Evil. That's where we have here. Big corporation expanding and
growing but there's an obstacle in the way. An old building that houses
a few people is still standing with a restaurant. The group has their
own problems, but they are trying to survive. Thugs try their best to
bring them down. Almost succeeding. Then one night, the two visitors
appear needing a spot to recharge and found out they liked it. So they
*batteries not included brings out the best in all of us. With a little faith in ourselves and the people around us, good things can happen. It had been years since I had seen the movie. I loved it then. And now, I still love it. Every day life has its ups and downs, feeling good about something makes a lot better.
Hume and Jessica did superb performances. The rest of the cast did very well. Even mom and pop flyers out did themselves. Can't forget the kids either. lol. The story was well written. The location was perfect.
The overall story is out of this world, but who cares. For a time chance to feel good after seeing it. I'd watch it over and over.
Jessica Tandy and Hume Cronyn stole the show, as is expected. However,
film is a very fun and nostalgic trip, the remaining cast getting the job
done well. While it could use some development, the ideas present and the
general whim about the film allow it to stand amongst other contemporary
Naturally, the film also sports great production values, with Spielberg, Kennedy, and Marshall at it once again. Go see it.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This is one of those sweet movies (with a touch of city toughness) that
remains as charming today as it did 25 years ago. Called a rip-off of
"Close Encounters", "E.T." and "Cocoon" (did anybody dare call "E.T." a
rip-off of "Close Encounters"?, which it lightly emulated), "Batteries
Not Included" is a family film with an adult touch that is gripping,
intense, charmingly corny and a tribute to the love between old people
that time cannot tear apart.
Hume Cronyn and Jessica Tandy are the two oldest tenants of a small walk-up and run a diner. They are being bullied by real-estate developers, and a money-hungry thug (Michael Carmine) is determined to get them out so he can get a huge cash settlement from the greedy people who have been paying him off. Other tenants break down and sign the relocation agreement, but the stubborn Cronyn refuses. As the threats get worse, Cronyn, Tandy and their fellow tenants get a little help from somewhere in Steven Spielberg's mind. He didn't direct this, but his production company did produce it, and there is the obvious touch of his hand within the special effects.
Tandy's character is suffering from dementia and obviously believes Carmine to be her long dead son. This creates for a touching twist when the film explodes into its dramatic conclusion and gives Carmine some truly multi-dimensional layers to add to his character. The fabulous Doris Belack has an amusing small role, her memory from tons of T.V. soaps (as well as "The Golden Girls" and dozens of movies including "Tootsie" and "She-Devil" embedded in your mind) and the shot at the end is a sign that even in the ruthless corporate world of a metropolis like Manhattan, the meek will inherit the earth and good will ultimately rule over evil.
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.
Fairly dreadful 'old-fashioned' fantasy, representing the tail-end of both the cute old folks-cycle and the cute alien beings-cycle, has an ethnically-diverse group of residents in a New York City tenement that's been marked for destruction gaining help from two intergalactic beings--his and hers miniature flying saucers. Opening with a blast of jazz music and a montage of 'vintage' photographs (both fraudulent), this noisy, cluttered film, executive produced by Steven Spielberg, is an overachiever. Lost somewhere between "Cocoon" and "E.T.", it never finds an appropriate tone--although its aim is to be weepy-eyed whimsy, with both wet eyes firmly on the box office. *1/2 from ****
Elderly couple Frank (Hume Cronyn) and Faye Riley (Jessica Tandy) who
is suffering from dementia run a small diner in an old apartment
building. The NYC neighborhood is being torn down. Thugs led by Carlos
hired by property developer Lacey and his henchman Kovacs (John Pankow)
are pushing the tenants out. The tenants include pregnant Marisa
Esteval (Elizabeth Peña), former boxer Harry Knoble (Frank McRae) and
starving artist Mason Baylor desperate to save the building. The cops
refuse to help. A couple of small UFOs arrive and change everything.
This definitely has the tone of an old Disney family film. Like those movies, this is strictly family fare which does tackle some slightly darker issues. The tone can be a little awkward at times for modern audiences but it absolutely works for this film. The special effects are terrific for the time. This features Brad Bird who contributed to his first theatrical screenplay in this.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I remember this film from the '80s and recently bought it on DVD, and
it is still an original and fresh idea and a very sweet story. The main
characters are an elderly couple Frank and Faye. Faye is unfortunately
suffering the early effects of dementia and her husband Frank is her
carer. These two characters are very sympathetically written and acted
and have a believable backstory -- they have lived all their married
life in the ageing city building they are in the story, where they run
a café, but now developers want them out so they can demolish the
building. The other characters are less developed and not so
interesting, a retired boxer, a painter, and a pregnant woman who has a
long-distance relationship with the father of her foetus, so the focus
is really on the elderly couple. It is refreshing to see a film about
this kind of relationship, rather than yet another soggy romance or a
generic story about kids as a character backdrop to this kind of
The *other* characters in the story are a pair, and later a family, of benevolent biomechanical creatures who construct a nest out of junk on the roof and start repairing broken items about the place and eating others. Some people in other reviews have identified these creatures as 'aliens' or 'spaceships'. While it is speculated initially by the other characters that the creatures may be spaceships for 'tiny aliens' or come from other worlds, when one of them is studied under a magnifying glass by a character, he sees lots of little circuits, and not 'tiny aliens' and since the creatures mate and give birth to offspring this would suggest they are living organisms in their own right. There is also not really anything to support the idea of them being of extraterrestrial origin, and it's probably more likely they are something that came about as part experiment, part natural evolution on Earth, although the question of where they come from is never addressed.
A few people have also claimed this film rips off ET and a film called Cocoon. 'ET' is a story about a boy finding an alien creature. I have not seen 'Cocoon' so I read a synopsis of it, and it is a story about elderly people finding a fountain of eternal youth created by aliens. 'Batteries Not Included' to me is nothing like either of these. It is an urban fantasy version of the 'pixies down the garden' trope with an '80s twist on the pixies. And I enjoyed it when I first saw it, and I enjoyed it again more recently. It's a sweet, quirky story and a clever idea.
It's a shame it isn't a better-known film, but I suspect there are reasons for that, and there are some problems with it as a film meant to appeal to family audiences. Firstly, the story about Faye's Alzheimer's, even though it is a refreshing change, is by its nature grim. Although the story ends happily, I am left with the expectation that Faye's condition will inevitably deteriorate soon to the point that Frank can no longer care for her and they can't continue to live together in the home they have spent their life in. A similarly grim theme is that when the biomechanical mother gives birth to her 'chicks' one of them is stillborn, although it is later revived by one of the human characters, which is sweet, but young children may get upset or not understand the birth scene.
The second problem is the main antagonist, a thug hired by the developer to evict the residents of the property, in that he is extremely violent, breaking into the property wielding axes and cudgels and threatening the residents and smashing up their property. Halfway through the film he unprovokedly attacks, and apparently kills, the father of the little biomechanical family (although he is later repaired by his mate) in a scene that would likely be deeply upsetting for young children, and towards the end he violently assaults a man and sets fire to the building, before somewhat redeeming himself by rescuing Faye from the burning ruins.
In summary, this is a delightful film, but may be unsuitable for young or sensitive children due to the violence in what would otherwise be quite a gentle story, and some darker themes.
*** 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.
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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