The Flick Chicks

Jacqueline Monahan's Movie Reviews

Chappie | Sharlto Copley, Sigourney Weaver, Hugh Jackman, Dev Patel, Ninja, Yo-Landi Visser, Jose Pablo Cantillo, Brandon Auret | Review

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Jacqueline  Monahan

Las Vegas Round The Clock
Jacqueline Monahan is an educator for the GEAR UP program at UNLV.
She is also an entertainment reporter for
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Chappie | Sharlto Copley, Sigourney Weaver, Hugh Jackman, Dev Patel, Ninja, Yo-Landi Visser, Jose Pablo Cantillo, Brandon Auret | Review

To borrow the plain, unadulterated logic of Boris Karloff’s misunderstood monster in Frankenstein: Chappie the robot, good.  Chappie the movie, bad.

The messy romp that ricochets like a stray bullet is a Mad Max meets Short Circuit tale that starts out promisingly enough.  

In the near future Johannesburg, South Africa is policed entirely by numbered robots (Scouts) the brainchild of creator Deon Wilson (Dev Patel) and manufactured by Tetra Vaal, headed by Michelle Bradley (Sigourney Weaver).  Order is maintained effectively, although pockets of thugs still roam freely, dressed like road warriors and hyper tattooed, middle-finger fashionistas.

Drug mules (Ninja and Yo-Landi Visser of the rant rave group Die Antwoord) cross uber drug lord Hippo (Brandon Auret) which barely matters except to show off the counterculture crime boss as a vicious, one-note, nearly insane, vengeance-based wild man.  Hippo’s thick, sneer of an accent even needs subtitles.  Yo-Landi and Ninja now have to protect themselves from both Hippo and the mechanized police.

Concurrently, Wilson works on producing a thinking, feeling robot that can learn, paint, and write.  You know, the kind of robot who will thrive in a world dominated by Hippos and Ninjas. Wilson requests the remains of street-battle-destroyed Scout 22 from boss lady Bradley, who turns him down.  Wilson takes Scout 22 anyway, but is taken himself when Ninja, Yo-Landi, and sidekick Yankie aka Amerika (Jose Pablo Cantillo) decide they need a programmer to switch off the mechanized police force and commit a massive heist.

Scout 22 becomes Chappie (Sharlto Copley, voice) with Wilson’s expertise (and with Ninja’s gun to his head) in the tragically hip, painted and graffiti-filled abandoned urban industrial complex that Ninja, Yo-Landi and Amerika call home. The trio takes custody of the innocent, baby-brained bot while Wilson nervously departs with a promise to return and train the new creation.  “Bad decision!” the audience screams, but no one hears us.

Left with the criminals, Chappie’s new life is full of violence, car-jacking, chain wearing, and strutting under the tutelage of “Daddy” Ninja and “Mommy” Yo-Landi.  Requisite slo-mo shot included.  Wilson becomes “Maker” and disapproves of Chappie’s development.  When he finally decides to take action, events unfold in surprising (read: what the?) ways.

Back at Tetra Vaal, former soldier and rival robot developer Vincent Moore (Hugh Jackman) positions himself and his giant Moose creation, a flying mega-ton assault bot, to become the industry standard by rescuing Johannesburg from a massive crime spree resulting from his own act of sabotage.  Get ready for explosions and injuries and tragedies that transform…in a way.

Of course, everything is blamed on Chappie, whose swift evolution from timid toddler to swaggering street hood, does not include his speech, which remains clipped and child-like.  Still, he is the only sympathetic character on screen amidst a mish-mash of confused (and confusing) personalities.
A talented cast (from four continents) is given little character development.  Sigourney Weaver merely shows up and says her lines.  Dev Patel’s Wilson waffles between rebel and wuss, while Hugh Jackman’s Moore is a one-note no-good-nik with a bad haircut and worse attitude.  

Yo-Landi undergoes a 180 from gun moll to mommy, rolling her “r’s” soothingly; “That’s a rrrat, Chappie.  Can you say rrrat?” Even the venomous Ninja softens a bit, which is more of a miracle than Chappie’s own existence, but puzzling nonetheless.  Brandon Auret drinks from the villain well so thoroughly that Hippo’s persona is nearly unbelievable in portraying over-the-top, seething, murderous, greed.

Anderson Cooper has a cameo as himself in an opening news broadcast and the pounding, relentless soundtrack is by Hans Zimmer, with songs by Die Antwoord.

Director Neill Blomkamp (District 9) maintains CGI and seamless stop-motion excellence, but loses momentum with an inane script that tries to incorporate vicious cruelty with sentimentality and lowbrow humor, strange bedfellows indeed.  When “love” peeks through, it is barely recognizable and wildly out of place.  The sentience should make more sense.

Sorry Chappie.  You ok, but movie no make happy.


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