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VWN Product Reviews: Batteries Not Included

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Batteries not included is one of those fun, zany little films that pretty much appeals to everyone. Released in 1987, it is one of that group of 80s films, that plain came before their time.

Produced by Steven Spielberg, this film is an unashamed heartwarmer with high-quality acting, and special effects that add to the plot rather than ever distracting.

The film centres around a run-down American apartment block, a holdover from the 1930s. Four stories high, and housing a group of tenants as run-down and on the edge as the block, it is the only one still standing in a neighbourhood that is being demolished. The reason it still stands, is simply because the tenants have nowhere to go, no hope in the world; individually, disorganisedly, each refuses to leave, and the developer is getting pushy.

A group of thugs smash up the caf? at the foot of the building, to convince the proprietors ?elderly couple Frank and Faye, the central humans of the picture ? to leave or they will be next. Faye, an advanced stage Alzheimers sufferer hugs the lead thug, mistaking him for her long-dead son, and begins to carry on a one-sided conversation with the confused thug. After smashing the caf? right in front of Faye, the group go through the building, breaking down doors, smashing ornaments and putting the fear of god into people.

All hope seems to be lost.

Then, that night, a UFO appears. It?s not your usual UFO, being only a foot in diameter. It flies down, and explores the half-deserted tenement building, as if surveying the land. Two round blue sensors protrude from the front, like eyes on an organic being.

It finds many things to be broken, and with arrays of tiny tools deployed from it; tractor beams and manoeuvring arms, it repairs doors, watches, and reassembles glass display cabinets on a molecular scale. Half the night it spends, repairing the building around its occupants. Then, we see why: A second saucer comes down. It is the same size, but a different shape.

The two press together like a couple in love, and the first guides the second to the building, to nest.

The residents find so many of their belongings repaired in the morning, that they begin to talk to one another ? something they never usually do, trying to figure out what is going on. Prized objects are whole; the doors undamaged, ancient works, not functional in years, now lock. Amazement murmurs up and down the stairs.

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Later on, in Frank and Faye?s kitchen, things are weird. Frank enters the kitchen to find a hole in his toaster, the plug missing from the device, and Faye murmuring happily at the sink. Holding the toaster, and going to ask her about it, Frank notes something really odd: A frizbee-sized object floats next to Faye, and is using the Toaster?s plug to hook itself into the power grid.

Pulling his wife away, to which Faye, distraught, asks what he is doing, and then tries to push him away when he goes to investigate the saucer, the first one that descended last night. He uses a magnifying glass to peer close, and the ship responds by producing a large unfolding panel from its side, spinning and shattering the magnifying glass. The metal prong then ejects from the ship. Frank picks it up and finds it matches the hole cut in his toaster.

Before the glass broke, Frank had had a good close-up view of the ship, and finds its all one machine, tiny, tiny elements moving about inside. The ship is robotic, an alien, non-organic intelligence.

The creature then disengages from the power supply, picks up Frank?s toaster, and leaves with it, flying up the central stairwell of the building.

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Slowly, the tenants come to realise that the creatures came to the building to nest in safety. The second one is pregnant. They needed somewhere with electrical power, warm, safe, and a supply of refined metals, to feed to her, to use to build their children.

This strange family of intelligent beings, peaceful, and mostly friendly ? the ?male? would defend the female? to his death, if he had to ? help the tenant dwellers find new hope and meaning in their lives, and ultimately, whatever the developer throws at the tenants, the robots rebuild, stronger than ever.

Overall, it is a good, loving, often funny film, featuring members of two species ? one synthetic, one organic, working together in harmony, and as peers.

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