- Movie Rating -

Heartbeeps (1981)

| December 18, 1981

There lives in my heart a certain affection for Heartbeeps in spite of the fact that this is not a good movie.  It is plodding, slow, directionless and seems to have only been conceived at the base level without any idea where to take it.  And yet, I cannot deny its sweet gentility.  There is a naïve innocence here that reminded me slightly of The Wizard of Oz, but without that film’s poignancy, buoyancy or kooky charm.  There is also room to assume that this movie exists because of the wild popularity of R2-D2 and C-3PO although sadly without their humanity or strange habit of getting into exciting adventures.

The film takes place in a weird future where apparently robots have become a normal fixture for the average household, not just to do chores or to serve man, but as a companion to the lonely and an icebreaker at your pool party.  They can make small talk, response to inane chatter or, in the case of the Catskill comedian model, to tell an endless stream of dusty old one-liners. 

The robots at the center are Val (Andy Kaufman) and Aqua (Bernadette Peters), units that have been built for human companionship, but who quickly learn that they are better at companionship with each other.  Stowed away in the confines of their factory, facing a window that looks out at the countryside, they share a special moment when a rainbow appears following a rainstorm.  This triggers a response and something in their curiosity circuits begins to bloom.  Val gets the idea that maybe he’d like to examine the threes lining the mountain range and soon the robots plan an escape.

The scene at the rainbow is really the film’s centerpoint.  It is where the robots discover that they have a need to connect, to build a life for themselves and can build a family together.  The problem is that after this scene (which comes just 11 minutes into the movie) the film has nowhere else to go.  Val, Aqua and Catskill escape from the factory and are pursued by pesky humans and a malfunctioning law enforcement robot named Crimebuster (voiced by Ron Gans).  In the meantime, they seek to build a home and a life for themselves and eventually even build a robot child named Phil (voiced by Jerry Garcia).

The problem is that the movie has a lead pacing.  It’s slow and boring for long stretches of time and nothing seems to have been done with a purpose.  No one seems to have any idea where they wanted this material to go or what it was suppose to say.  I guess there’s a slight message about ‘what makes a family’ in that Val and Aqua want to build a life together, but that message just kind of lays there.  The robots don’t really learn anything unexpected and we always seem about 10-miles ahead of their thinking.

The only good quality to the movie is the production design.  The robot characters have been created by Stan Winston with a fantastical look.  Kaufman and Peters don’t look like R2-D2 or C-3PO, but rather like a cartoon version of what robots might look like.  It creates their outer-world fantasy and it also makes them kind of endearing.  Too bad that movie couldn’t find anything significant for them to do.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(1981) View IMDB Filed in: Uncategorized