MTV goes to war: a relentlessly pounding pop score, strange light playing on otherwise realistic scenes, great blasts of special effects whooshing incomprehensibly at you (in most of the aerial combat scenes it is almost impossible to tell the MiGs from the F-14s). Top Gun is about the training of the Navy's best fighter pilots and their blooding in cold war incidents, and the only thing Director Tony Scott has not brought up to date is the story. It is the one about the hotdog who has to be taught to be a team player. They were peddling that one before Writers Jim Cash and Jack Epps Jr. were born; maybe, in fact, pulpsters were dreaming it up before Wilbur and Orville got off the ground. Tom Cruise and Kelly McGillis are the performers caught up in a put-put love affair while the jets vroom prettily above.
A robot with unsuspected autodidactic capabilities escapes the arm of the military-industrial complex that created him, suspensefully eludes the small army sent out to capture him and, along the way, turns himself into a philosopher of the liberal-humanist persuasion. If the irony that a cute thinking machine might be able to teach real people something about moral philosophy appeals to you, then you may like Short Circuit. If, on the other hand, your taste in robots runs toward the apolitical comedy of Artoo Detoo, then Director John Badham's efficient realization of a script by S.S. Wilson and Brent Maddock may strike you as entirely too preachy keen. Ally Sheedy and Steve Guttenberg are the lovers matched by the machine; Austin Pendleton and Fisher Stevens are funny as, respectively, an ambiguous enemy and the malaprop-prone friend of what is finally just a pretty good special effect.
JO JO DANCER, YOUR LIFE IS CALLING
A hundred contentious spirits live inside Richard Pryor; Candide is not one of them. Yet that is the role he plays in this drably rouged-up autobiography, which he directed and co-wrote (with Rocco Urbisci and Paul Mooney). The contours of Pryor's misspent life are the same--raised in his grandma's $ brothel, early career working cheap nightclubs, a bunch of misunderstood and misunderstanding wives, championship bouts with alcohol and drugs leading to the final free-base conflagration--but the guts are missing. The comic here is a sweet-souled wimp: he uses a gun only in defense of a friend; he is introduced to cocaine by his white wife, whom he finds in bed with a Hollywood sleaze bag. Instead of the fierce artistry of Pryor's comic monologues, he offers a decorous TV biopic: The Hallmark Hall of Flame.