Let’s get this out of our systems now: Chances are when you read the title of this movie, your mind either went “Wah-wah-wah-wah-won-n-der!” or had Bon Jovi cranking away. So go ahead and click the appropriate link in that last statement – it’ll pop open a separate window and give you something to listen to as you enjoy this review.
And now, to the movie: After an opening credit sequence that screams, “I Heart My Apple IIe!” we meet Tom Selleck, who is a cop IN THE FUTURE. Tom Selleck and his new partner, Hottie McWhatserface, are part of a new division within the police force of THE FUTURE, investigating Robots Gone Wild.
You see, IN THE FUTURE we’ve replaced all our migrant workers with robots. That may sound cool, except these aren’t awesome robots like R2-D2 or Jet Jaguar or even Rosie the Robot. At best, the robots featured in Runaway are like the RC Racer versions of Wall-E.
In fact, it’s not hard to think of cooler robots: Robby the Robot, Crow and Tom Servo, Data, Twiki, Vincent from The Black Hole, Yul Brenner from Westworld, flippin’ Ahnold from T2… you get the idea.
Most of the robots in this film actually look like the ’70s version of IKEA office furniture. One of the more elaborate robots, “LOIS,” serves as a bit of comic relief. LOIS, who looks like a stack of stereo equipment on coasters, watches after Tom Selleck’s son and basically acts like Tom Selleck’s mom. You’ll be thrilled to know that despite all these technological advances IN THE FUTURE, the cell phones are still the size of dumbbell.
The first half of the movie runs like COPS in slow motion. We follow Tom Selleck and Hottie McWhatserface as they go from one assignment to the next, dealing with day-laborer robots goin’ rogue in a cornfield, robots throwing bags of cement from the 18th floor at a construction site, that kind of thing. I think these malfunctioning robots are the titular “Runaways,” but don’t quote me on that.
In one highly dramatic scene, a shoebox on wheels has gone berserk, slashing up two people (off-camera) and holding a baby hostage with a .357 Magnum. After a “floating camera” (an upended desk fan on strings) is shot out of the air by the crazed shoebox, Tom Selleck decides that he needs to go in and face the robot, mano-a-mano. In addition to not bothering with any kind of backup, Tom Selleck gets suited in from neck to toes in chainmail but neglects to wear any kind of headgear.
Sadly, that’s better protection than when Tom Selleck later takes on an angry humidifier that won’t stop zapping Kirstie Alley. According to the plot, the humidifier is zapping Kirstie Alley because she’s smoking in the office, but I like to think that its zapping her on principle. Anyway, Tom Selleck has to macho it up for the ’80s version of Kirstie Alley, taking on the humidifier armed with nothing but his moustache. The humidifier has its way with Selleck until he treats the robot to a conchairto.
By the halfway point, Tom Selleck and Hottie McWhatserface have managed to link all of the Robots Gone Wild to mad genius named Dr. Charles Luthor (clearly the villain of the film cuz he’s played by Gene Simmons). Our dynamic duo spends the rest of the time trying to apprehend Dr. Luthor and failing, despite the fact that Luthor does thinks like murder people in public and impersonate a police officer inside the police station.
There’s a very silly sequence where Luthor’s men try to blow up Tom Selleck’s police cruiser with amped up exploding Roombas. But most folks come for the robot spiders, Dr. Luthor’s own personal assassins. They might almost be scary if they did jitter around like wind-up toys.
Sadly, nothing in Runaway is as cool as I’m making it sound.
Oh, this should have been a delightfully cheesy experience. Unfortunately, it’s ruined by Michael Crichton of all people — yes, the guy who wrote Jurassic Park. Apparently, when the studio was putting together what was meant to be the Big Sci-Fi Spectacle of 1984, someone thought that writing popular novels like The Andromeda Strain made Michael Crichton qualified to direct a high profile film.
Not so much. Crichton’s ponderous, leaden direction doesn’t just drag the action down, it tries to drown it in a puddle. Which is a shame, because otherwise Runaway had all the makings of a delightfully bad film.