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Best of the 80s: Cherry 2000 (1987)

August 11, 2011

“Cherry WHAT?, you say?  It’s been awhile since I’ve written a post in this category, so I figured I would bring it back with a bang.  How about a movie about futuristic bounty hunters searching for a ditzy female android in a post-apocalyptic Mojave Desert?  That stars Melanie Griffith.  You’re still game?  FANTASTIC.  FYI – this movie is out of print, so it is currently only available on Netflix instant.  It’s like a FINE WINE, people.  Rare means better!

Cherry 2000 holds a special place in my heart.  It ranks in quality somewhere a shade above a SyFy movie of the week (Galactic Gators! Swords and Dragons and Clevage!) and quite a few notches below Masterpiece Theatre (even if MT is showing its 800th episode of Miss Marple).  Still, I’d like to believe that, much like Flash Gordon, it is a cult classic that is so abysmally awful that it must be anointed a work of genius.

the title character

Cherry 2000 was directed by Steve De Jarnatt and written by Michael Almereyda, who have probably both seen Blade Runner so many times that they convinced themselves that this movie would work as a romantic comedy version of the same basic plot.  Which makes me chuckle heartily and laugh ALL THE MORE.  Plus, it stars Melanie Griffith.  I recently read a great book, Spellbound by Beauty: Alfred Hitchcock and His Leading Ladies, by Donald Spoto, in which he calls Griffith a “popular and talented actress”.  I promptly laughed out loud so hard that I scared both my husband and the dogs. 

Griffith’s misnomer as a “talented” actress primarily comes from two things: her role in Working Girl and the fact that her mom was Hitchcock’s muse Tippi Hedren.  Let’s take a crack at both of  those right now.  Working Girl was awesome because of director Mike Nichols and three supporting actors (Alec Baldwin, Sigourney Weaver and Joan Cusack) who got up in the morning, cracked their knuckles and said “LET’S DO THIS THING”,  and did just that.  Tippi Hedren was unlucky enough to be the Hitchcock blonde best known for being tortured by live birds in The Birds and then tortured by Sean Connery in the utterly unwatchable Marnie.   Her acting basically consisted of constantly looking as if she CANNOT BELIEVE THAT THIS IS HAPPENING TO HER, BY GOLLY!  So then Melanie watched all her mother’s movies and said – GENIUS METHOD ACTING!  The rest is history.

As the movie opens, we meet Sam Treadwell, played with gusto and complete gung-ho attitude by David Andrews (keep remembering that it’s not his fault, really), a character actor who got through all this just fine and has a more successful career than Griffith at this point.  I say these things because after viewing this movie, I know you will worry about the guy. 

Sam has a dead-end job in a California scrap metal plant, but somehow gets to come home to a sweet futuristic bungalow inhabited by (wait for it)…a cute model with a nifty 80s haircut who wears tailored dresses to do the dishes.  Ah ha…but there’s a catch (SHOCKING PLOT POINT ALERT).  This is the “Cherry 2000” of the title, a “companion” robot programmed to play Sam’s girlfriend in EVERY way.  That includes fetching his slippers, massaging his ego and errr…other things. 

Look, I'm a REAL girl!

Alas, the two lovebirds decide to share their affection for each other on the kitchen floor while the dishwasher overflows, illustrating how very dim and ridiculous the two of these folks really are (but only the robot has a decent excuse).  In a scene that would put Belloq’s face melting off in Raiders to shame, Cherry short circuits.  Sam is left with nothing but the disc that contains all of Cherry’s “memories”.  He makes the rounds to various geeky computer guys trying to get a copy of his Cherry 2000 model, knowing full well that replacing her like a blender at Target is probably NOT GOING TO WORK.  

Of course, Sam has the only copy of this popular model of robot left in California.  He tries in vain to convince everyone he sees that Cherry is not mere wires and circuits programmed to answer his beck and call, but is in fact his REAL AND LOVING GIRLFRIEND.  What cracks me up is how all the folks Sam talks to about replacing Cherry arch an eyebrow and give him that look that says, “So THAT’S HOW IT IS, buddy”.   They totally know what’s up.

Meanwhile, Sam’s friends at the scrap plant try to get him to consider REAL chicks to date, which leads to a hilarious scene where we see that dating in post-apocalyptic California involves two people, a medical report, and a lawyer (AWESOME – I’m just sayin’).  It also shows Lawrence Fishburne in a brief role as said lawyer, back when he was just called Larry (also AWESOME).  This awkward scene  convinces Sam that he must head to the fringes of the desert and hire a bounty hunter to escort him into the “Graveyard”  of Zone 7 (where justice no longer applies – WHEEE!) to locate a Cherry 2000 model from the original factory.    Of course, this factory is surrounded by gangsters and ruffians right out of the Mad Max universe, another set of movies that the director and screenwriter have probably seen way too many times to count.

that's some nice hardware you got there, kid

This leads Sam to an encounter( in the hilariously named town of Glory Hole) with E. Johnson (Melanie Griffith), after the prerequisite scene where Sam has to try to find the bounty hunter in the shady bar and is SHOCKED to discover that she is not a MAN, but a GAL!  Shut the front door already – feminism has made it to post-apocalyptic society and it is HERE TO STAY!

Griffith is also proud to go whole hog with the idea that she is a competent bounty hunter, and to that I say, GAME ON!  From this point in the movie, much obvious dialogue occurs setting up a flirty but DIFFERENT relationship between our two leads, demonstrating powerfully and for plot effect how little E. Johnson has in common with a robot (ahem, Cherry).  For example, E., unlike Cherry, loves to handle weapons and doesn’t have a problem getting dirty to get a job done. Ahem.  Okay, so perhaps that romantic comedy tactic is less than successful.

So the two set off and have various adventures in the desert, which are intercut with scenes that play off the idea that Sam should grow up, get a life and find a REAL GIRL already.  All this is about 15 years before people would convince Ryan Gosling that he should grow up, get a life and find a REAL GIRL already in Lars and the Real Girl.  You saw it here first.  I’m telling you – these filmmakers were visionaries.

There is a bad guy named Lester, of course, but what I love about this movie is that he’s a complete nut job who is completely unaware that he’s a COMPLETE NUT JOB.  Lester is also shacking up with Sam’s unfortunate ex-girlfriend Ginger, who is played by an actress who is a dead ringer for Ellen Greene from Little Shop of Horrors, but disappointingly is NOT  Ellen Greene from Little Shop of Horrors.   Anyway, Lester  lives with his cult at a compound made out of a cheesy Vegas roadside motel.  He HATES bounty hunters.  This is made perfectly clear when an unfortunate bounty hunter tries to scam Lester into thinking that he’s just on his way to a golf tournament.  A FLIPPIN’ POST-APOCALYPTIC GOLF TOURNAMENT.  Love it.  Love every minute of it.

Lester and Ginger

This all leads to showdown in the desert-covered, desolate former Las Vegas.  Of course, everyone in post-apocalyptic movies calls it the desert “RECLAIMING” Vegas, which is absolutely ridiculous.  We all know that in the event of the apocalypse, ONLY Las Vegas will end up still standing, because where the heck else are they going to set up the Thunderdome?  Duh.

In the end, Sam and E. must realize they are meant for each other, Lester must meet his doom appropriately, and Sam’s ex girlfriend Ginger must eat a sandwich.  Seriously, she sees her meal ticket  bite it, and she shrugs her shoulders and EATS A SANDWICH.  How much do I love this movie?  That much.

I do, however, want to take a moment to officially mourn for the director of this film, Steve De Jarnatt, who according to IMDB, apparently was consigned to production limbo after this and forced to direct multiple episodes of Lizzie McGuire – no doubt in punishment for casting Melanie Griffith as anyone an audience should be forced to consider seriously in…well…ANY role one can think of. 

Having said that, I do thank those involved in creating this film for inadvertently giving me so many hours of hilarity and entertainment.  Watch it  RIGHT NOW.  Watch it with someone you love so that you can share the experience with others just to prove it even happened.  You’re welcome.

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