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A Review by: Jeff Turner
Dir: Neill Blomkamp
Written by: Neill Blompkamp, Terri Tatchell
Distributed by: Colombia Pictures, Alpha Core, Genre Films, LStar Capital, Media Rights Capital, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Ollin Studio, Simon Kinberg Productions.
Starring: Dev Patel, Hugh Jackman, Sigourney Weaver, Ninja, Yo-landi Visser.
Featuring the voice of: Sharlto Copley
I was indifferent towards DISTRICT 9. I liked the movie fine, but I wouldn’t have nominated it for best picture and had it not been the critical darling that it was, I would have completely forgotten I had seen it. ELYSIUM I missed, but it seemed that critics and audiences had a similar indifferent reaction to that one. Now we are at CHAPPIE, or as its called in various foreign countries; SHORT CIRCUIT 3: THE GRITTY REBOOT.
Obvious joke, I know. That does however, illustrate the films big problem. There’s a little bit of SHORT CIRCUIT 2, a little bit of ROBOCOP, a dash of some…LAWNMOWER MAN? Odd choice. The film’s message is not unlike that of AVATAR, or any of the dozens of films AVATAR derived from. Corporations and technology=bad. We have seen this story, and we have seen it too many times for it to be effective in CHAPPIE. Blomkamp fails to make the material feel fresh.
Deon (Dev Patel) has designed a brand of robot for policing purposes. The world is going to hell because of it and he feels guilty. As such he wishes to make a robot in that vein, but to program it for peaceful means. This goes awry as the robot is stolen by Die Antwoord (A rap-rave group from South Africa that consists of Ninja and Yo-landi Visser playing themselves) who wish to use it to help them pull off a heist so they can get out of Johannesburg. Meanwhile Vincent (Hugh Jackman) wants to, and I am not exaggerating, shut down the police robots, causing anarchy, and then use that to prove why the system isn’t working and why they need to start using his robots instead.
Let me break that remarkable piece of motivation down for you; he wants to “break government to prove that it isn’t working.” Subtle.
To Jackman’s credit, he plays the character with a straight face. He’s ultimately let down by the screenplay, but the man earns his paycheck. Everything about CHAPPIE is pretty ridiculous, really. Die Antwoord never find the right tone either. I like the idea of casting them in movies, but in this one they either hilariously overact, or they underact. I could never take them seriously.
There are a few perks to CHAPPIE; namely Sharlto Copley’s turn as the aforementioned robot with a heart of gold. He imbues Chappie with the innocence needed for the role, and is able to make the character absolutely adorable with the simple use of his voice. Dev Patel’s not bad either, for a guy with an Indian accent, his South African accent was pretty convincing. Both of them deserve a better movie.
I’m not going to pretend I was bored during CHAPPIE; I was entertained. I was entertained for the wrong reasons though. I am content recommending the movie as a rental. Is Blomkamp flaming out? Even M. Night Shyamalan had two critical successes after his debut film; THE SIXTH SENSE. Blomkamp’s only had one after DISTRICT 9. CHAPPIE is a hot mess, but I at least enjoyed myself.
Suggestion: Rent it